Do I have to wear a mask on British Airways or Virgin Atlantic flights to and from the United States?

Apr 20, 2022

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It was the news many air travellers across the Atlantic had been gagging for: Joe Biden yesterday gave in to mounting pressure to lift mask-wearing rules on U.S. flights.

The “Land of the Free’s” 46th president didn’t want to.

Related: United States end mask mandate on aircraft and in airports

But when a Donald Trump-appointed federal judge deemed his mask mandate for public transport unlawful, he was finally forced to back down on masks, and allow travellers to fly barefaced for the first time in two years.

As of yesterday, after the ruling by US District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle in Tampa, public transportation operators across America are allowed to make their own decisions about mask requirements.

“[The] decision means CDC’s public transportation masking order is not in effect at this time,” a Biden administration official told TPG, somewhat cryptically. “Therefore, TSA will not enforce its Security Directives and Emergency Amendment requiring mask use on public transportation and transportation hubs at this time. CDC recommends that people continue to wear masks in indoor public transportation settings.”

But what about people flying into America from the United Kingdom?

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We reached out to British Airways and Virgin Atlantic for clarity… and clear they both were.

“Customers and colleagues aren’t required to wear a mask on board our US flights from today,” a British Airways spokesperson swiftly confirmed. “It will now be a personal choice so we ask everyone to respect each other’s preferences.”

Minutes later, Virgin Atlantic echoed that sentiment, confirming that the ruling meant passengers travelling in either direction across the Atlantic could fly mask-free if they wish.

“Effective immediately, masks will be a personal choice for our customers and people travelling in either direction between the UK and the United States,” a spokesperson said. “This aligns with our existing mask policy on routes where international regulations around mask-wearing do not apply, such as between the UK and the Caribbean.”

Related: What does British Airways elite status get you, and how do you earn it?

The spokesperson added: “We encourage everyone to be respectful of fellow passengers’ mask preferences and across our network, we continue to adhere to all regulatory requirements, recognising that mask requirements differ by market.”

The rules around pre-travel testing, however, have not changed.

Brits visiting the U.S. are still required to show a negative COVID-19 test result taken no more than one day before travel, as well as provide contact information to their airlines before boarding.

As for unvaccinated Brits, they are not allowed to enter the U.S. unless they meet one of the exceptions detailed on the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and US Embassy websites.

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Featured image by Mark Ralston/AFP via Getty Images.

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