British airlines, as well as London's Heathrow Airport, said on Monday that their mask requirements will be phased out over the next month. Following reports that the United Kingdom will relax its remaining travel restrictions this week, including coronavirus testing requirements for unvaccinated travellers, the policy shift occurred.
Heathrow said in a news statement on Monday that the mask requirement will be lifted on Wednesday, but that it still "highly recommends" passengers to keep their faces covered "in recognition that the epidemic has not ended."
Heathrow received statements from British Airways and Virgin Atlantic indicating that they will follow suit. British Airways Chief Operating Officer Jason Mahoney said in a statement that starting Wednesday, travellers on the carrier's flights would only be forced to wear a mask if their destination necessitates one.
Masks would be optional on flights not subject to international mask laws, according to Corneel Koster, Virgin Atlantic's chief customer and operations officer. The change will be phased in over time, with masks "remaining necessary on many of our itineraries, including aircraft travelling to or from the United States" until at least April 18, when a newly extended mask order from the Transportation Security Administration expires.
Beginning Friday at 4 a.m., Secretary of State for Transport Grant Shapps said that coronavirus tests and passenger locator papers will no longer be required of travellers. Last month, the United Kingdom removed the requirement for vaccinated tourists to undergo testing.
The United Kingdom has just joined a group of European neighbours that have eliminated all entry criteria. On March 6, Ireland lifted all covid travel restrictions, and Iceland and Norway followed suit in February.
Despite an increase in covid instances, the United Kingdom has changed its rules. According to tracking data published by The Post through Monday afternoon, the United Kingdom reported a 15% spike in daily instances over the previous week, with 689 new cases per 100,000 people.