Two major British airlines and London's Heathrow Airport announced on Monday they are planning to drop their mask mandates over the next month. The policy shift followed news from the United Kingdom that it will lift its remaining travel restrictions this week, including coronavirus testing requirements for unvaccinated visitors.
In a Monday news release, Heathrow announced it will drop its mask requirement starting Wednesday but still "strongly encourages" travellers in the airport to continue covering their faces "in recognition that the pandemic is not over."
British Airways and Virgin Atlantic provided statements to Heathrow indicating they would follow suit. In a statement, British Airways Chief Operating Officer Jason Mahoney said that beginning Wednesday, passengers will only be required to wear a mask on the carrier's flights if their destination requires it.
Corneel Koster, Virgin Atlantic's chief customer and operating officer, said in a statement that masks would be optional on routes that are not subject to international mask regulations. The airline will introduce the change gradually, and Koster said masks "will still be required on many of our routes, including flights operating to or from the United States" until at least April 18, the expiration date for a recently extended mask order from the Transportation Security Administration.
Jet2 became the first British airline to remove its mask requirement two weeks ago, stating it was no longer legally required. The British government removed restrictions on transportation in late February.
Secretary of State for Transport Grant Shapps announced Monday that the UK will no longer require coronavirus tests or passenger locator forms from travellers starting on Friday at 4 a.m. Britain previously scrapped testing requirements for vaccinated travellers last month.
In a news release provided to The Washington Post, the Department for Transport said the government will do away with managed hotel quarantine capacity by the end of the month. The department will put contingency plans in place to deal with any future variants of concern.
"I said we wouldn't keep travel measures in place for any longer than necessary, which we're delivering on today - providing more welcome news and greater freedom for travellers ahead of the Easter holidays," Shapps said in the release.
The UK joins a number of European neighbours that recently nixed all entry requirements. Ireland dropped all covid travel restrictions on March 6, and Iceland and Norway did the same in February.
The UK rule change comes despite an uptick in covid cases. According to tracking data compiled by The Post through Monday afternoon, Britain saw a 15% increase in daily cases over the last week, with 689 new cases per 100,000 people over the past seven days.
The Washington Post