British Airways and Virgin Atlantic have confirmed that they will still make passengers wear face masks on all their flights when England drops its masking laws next week. The government has told businesses that any local mask mandate must be frequently reviewed and ‘removed at the earliest opportunity’.
In a statement, British Airways pointed out that it flies to many destinations where masking rules remain in place and that it is obliged to adhere to the laws and policies of the different countries it operates in.
The airline could drop mandatory face mask rule on domestic flights within England but a spokesperson for British Airways said the airline had no plans to do so at the moment. In an emailed statement, BA told us:
“We have no immediate plans to change our mask policy, but keep our policies under review and continue to take advice and guidance from all the appropriate authorities. “
The statement continued: “The safety and security of our customers and colleagues is always our priority.”
Virgin Atlantic also said that it would continue to review its pandemic health measures and would “work together across industry to see when changes can be made”.
“However until further notice, we will require all customers and crew to continue to wear face masks for the duration of their flights, as well as at the airports,” the airline told us.
England will drop all mandatory masking rules from Thursday 27th January as the country transitions back to its Plan A pandemic response. Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid said people would still be encouraged to wear a face covering around strangers in crowded and enclosed spaces but that it would be left up to personal choice.
Javid urged the public to remain vigilant against the threat of COVID-19 but also said the government was exploring how to drop the legal requirement to self-isolate when someone tests positive for the virus.
British Airways and Virgin Atlantic retained their mask rules last summer when the legal requirement to wear a mask in public spaces was dropped for several months. In contrast, Scandi airlines including SAS quickly dropped onboard mask rules when pandemic restrictions were scrapped across the region in October.
The loosened restrictions proved, however, to be short-lived after the Omicron surge forced governments to reimpose mask rules.
Even before the Omicron surge, 83 per cent of passengers polled by the International Air Transporation Association (IATA) said they strongly supported inflight masking rules and an even bigger majority said they welcomed ‘strict enforcement’ of those rules.
That support for inflight masking came with one big caveat – that mask mandates be removed as soon as possible.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.