Passengers should expect to wear face masks on aeroplanes after 19 July

Jul 6, 2021

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Later this month will bring the day many Brits have been waiting for since March 2020 — so-called “freedom day.” On Monday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson laid out plans for 19 July, which will see restrictions on the mandatory use of face masks in public spaces lifted, among other changes.

But even with the lifting of face mask requirements in pubs, shops and other public spaces around the country, the aviation industry is planning to keep mandatory face mask policies in place for the time being.

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A number of U.K. airlines have made clear that despite the government’s changing of advice, which will see the use of face masks in “enclosed and crowded places” become optional, masks on planes will likely still be required.

Ryanair said in a statement that face masks will continue to be mandatory for all passengers even after 19 July.

“In order to protect the health of our customers and crew, the use of face masks will still be mandatory across all Ryanair flights, regardless of the departing/destination country,” Ryanair said in a statement.

Fellow low-cost carrier EasyJet echoed that sentiment, saying that it has no plans to drop its face mask requirement for passengers.

“At present, there are no changes to easyJet’s onboard mask policy and we will continue to keep this under review,” the airline said in a statement. “We continue to be guided by our inhouse medical adviser and a number of key industry governing bodies that airlines follow including the WHO (World Health Organization), Icao (International Civil Aviation Organisation), Easa (European Union Aviation Safety Agency), the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and public health authorities across Europe, and at present their guidance around the wearing of masks onboard remains unchanged.”

British Airways said that its face mask mandate will remain in place at this time, though it’s keeping its “policies under constant review.”

Meanwhile, Virgin Atlantic said it was not changing its guidance.

“The health and safety of our customers and crew remains Virgin Atlantic’s number one priority and we continuously review all our health measures,” a Virgin Atlantic spokesperson said in a statement. “After carefully reviewing our policy in relation to face coverings on board our flights, we will require all customers and crew to continue to wear face masks for the duration of their flights post 19 July.”

Predominantly leisure carriers TUI and Jet2 have both also confirmed that they don’t plan to alter their mask-wearing requirements following 19 July.

The trouble for many airlines is that they have to comply with the restrictions in both arrival and departure points. So, for example, if Scotland doesn’t relax its mask requirement on 19 July, a flight from London to Aberdeen would need to comply with both sets of restrictions.

For airlines, it’s easier to enforce a blanket rule on all flights, regardless of departure point and arrival — hence, why many aren’t changing their policies past 19 July.

Passengers should expect mask mandates to continue for air travel for some time.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated with new comment from Virgin Atlantic.

Featured photo by Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto/Getty Images.

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