LONDON – Passengers at London Heathrow (LHR) will not have to wear a mask in the airport from 16 March. The airport does encourage it, however, particularly when in close contact with others.
The news follows the UK Government removing all travel restrictions by easter. This includes Passenger Locator Forms and COVID-19 tests.
Emma Gilthorpe, LHR Chief Operating Officer said “We have worked hard to keep our passengers and colleagues safe during the pandemic.”
“We acted quickly to institute face coverings as one of our first lines of defence, and we’re pleased that we’re now able to move away from a mandatory requirement as society learns to live with COVID longer term.”
“While we still recommend wearing them, we can be confident the investments we’ve made in COVID-secure measures – some of which aren’t always visible – combined with the fantastic protection provided by the vaccine will continue to keep people safe while travelling.”
“We’re gearing up for a busy summer travel season, and this change means we can look forward to welcoming our passengers back with a smile as we get them safely away on their journeys.”
British Airways (BA) and Virgin Atlantic (VS) have said they will be following LHR’s move.
However, their mask rules are dependent on the requirements at their destination.
Corneel Koster, Chief Customer & Operating Officer, Virgin Atlantic said “Across our network, we continue to adhere to all regulatory requirements both in the UK and in destination countries, recognizing that mask requirements differ by market.”
“Masks will still be required on many of our routes, including flights operating to or from the United States until 18 April at the earliest.”
Jason Mahoney, British Airways’ Chief Operating Officer said “We welcome this as a really positive step forward. 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, March 16, customers will only be required to wear a face-covering onboard our flights if the destination they’re traveling 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.”
Both the airlines and LHR feel this is is an important step of learning to live with COVID-19.
Koster also continued: “Throughout the pandemic we’ve reviewed our Covid-19 measures, with the health and safety of our customers and people remaining Virgin Atlantic’s number one priority.”
“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 on board, on routes where international regulations around mask-wearing do not apply.”
“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.”