Face masks rules dropped from today at Heathrow and certain BA and Virgin Atlantic flights

Mar 16, 2022

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This article has been updated.


Travellers passing through London Heathrow (LHR), or boarding certain British Airways and Virgin Atlantic flights will no longer need to wear facemasks from today.

From 16 March, travellers are now free to pass through Britain’s largest airport completely barefaced, while the country’s two biggest long-haul carriers said passengers will be allowed to “make a personal choice” regarding masks on certain flights.

Related: Final remaining travel restrictions in the UK to be scrapped this week

The move follows the British government’s own announcement on Monday that the final remaining COVID-19 travel measures in the U.K. will be scrapped from Friday – including the dreaded Passenger Locator form and tests for unvaccinated arrivals.

But while the air industry seeks to fall in line with other transport organisations in the U.K., Heathrow was keen to encourage customers to “continue wearing a face-covering – particularly when coming into close contact with others”.

Related: As airlines ease facemask rules, is air travel COVID-safe? We asked the experts

In a statement on Tuesday the airport said: “Face coverings will remain available at the airport to support those who wish to continue wearing them.

“We know some passengers may feel vulnerable, and we are encouraging colleagues to be respectful and put on a face covering when near a passenger who requests it.

“Should a significant rise in Covid cases or a future variant of concern materialise, Heathrow will not hesitate to reinstate the mandatory use of face coverings at the airport.”

Alongside Heathrow’s announcement, both British Airways and Virgin Atlantic welcomed the move, each stating their own intentions to scrap compulsory mask-wearing on flights to certain destinations.

Related: Ireland has dropped all travel restrictions, just in time for St Patrick’s Day

“We welcome this as a really positive step forward,” said British Airways COO Jason Mahoney. “As an international airline we fly to a large number of countries around the world, all of which have their own local restrictions and legal requirements.

“We’re working through these and from Wednesday 16 March, customers will only be required to wear a face-covering on board our flights if the destination they’re travelling to requires it.

“For destinations where the wearing of a face covering is not mandated, our customers are able to make a personal choice, and we kindly request everyone respects each other’s preferences.”

Virgin Atlantic’s Chief Customer and Operating Officer Corneel Koster agreed: “As we learn to live with Covid and with the legal requirement to wear a face mask now removed in England, we believe our customers should have the personal choice whether to wear a mask onboard, on routes where international regulations around mask-wearing do not apply.

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“This policy will be introduced gradually, beginning with our Caribbean services from Heathrow and Manchester airports and we encourage everyone to be respectful of fellow passengers’ mask preferences.”

Earlier this month, Jet2 became the first airline to drop its mask-wearing mandate, soon followed Tui with their own announcement and Ryanair revealed plans to ease out face masks by Spring 2022. 

That news comes just in time for Easter and will bring relief to holidaymakers across the U.K. It will be the first time since spring 2020 that travellers have been able to enter the country without restrictions.

Featured image by Mark Ralston/AFP via Getty. 

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