European holiday airline TUI Airways has become the second major airline to drop face mask rules on nearly all of its flights to and from England and Northern Ireland where masking is no longer legally required but still encouraged.
The decision follows hot on the heels of British charter carrier Jet2 which dropped its own mask mandate at the start of March. The decision had divided opinion and stands at odds with international guidance from civil aviation regulatory organisations.
In updated guidance on the TUI Airways website, the airline says that from “from Friday 11th March, face masks will no longer be a legal requirement on TUI Airways flights to/from England and Northern Ireland.
“However, in line with UK government and EU Charter guidance, we strongly recommend that you still wear a mask throughout your flight.”
Face masks will still be required for passengers aged 12 and above on all flights to and from Wales and Scotland where indoor masking rules still haven’t been lifted.
For flights to and from the United States, the rules are even more stringent and all passengers aged two and over are required for the duration of the flight.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has extended the federal face mask guidance through April 18, at which point, it is expected that the mandate will be lifted or significantly eased.
TUI flights to Italy will also remain compulsory masking zones and passengers are required to wear upgraded FFP2 masks on these flights.
“It’s important to note that you may still be required to wear a mask when leaving the aircraft and once inside the airport at your arrival destination,” the guidance published by TUI continues.
Indoor masking rules are still in place in many European countries where TUI Airways flies but when the aircraft is on its own power the rules of the country that the plane is registered in takes precedence.
British Airways has refused to ease its own face mask policy, saying it must abide by local rules in the counties its operates it.
Virgin Atlantic has taken a similar tact but says it will keep its policy under review and lift the mask mandate as soon as possible.
Inflight masking has already been removed on certain domestic and interregional flights operated by Scandinavian airlines but face masks are still required on all flights to Europe and further afield.
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.