British airline first to scrap masks on flights

Getting rid of mask mandates seems to be the latest move signalling that some airlines think the pandemic is over.

The UK’s third-largest airline, Jet2, flies to more than 60 cities across Europe and has removed the requirement to wear a mask on its flights from and to England and Northern Ireland.

According to the airline, passengers will no longer be required to wear masks in England or Northern Ireland on planes or in airports, however, face coverings are still legally required for passengers six years and older travelling in Scotland.

“Your safety is our priority, so we’ve created our Face Mask Policy, so everyone knows exactly what’s expected while travelling with us,” Jet2 wrote in its guidance, adding, “It’s no longer a legal requirement to wear a face mask at our airports or onboard our planes. However, as per UK government guidance, we recommend that you continue to wear a face mask in these spaces, and you will need to wear one when you get to your overseas destination.”

Travel SOS: What’s the deal with face masks and flying?

The airline’s move follows the UK government’s recent decision to lift all coronavirus restrictions as the next stage in its ‘Living With Covid’ scheme.

While Brits are still urged to wear masks in crowded places, they will not be fined for refusing to do so.

So when will Australians be able to brave the skies bare faced if they wish? It’s up to the state and federal governments, not the airlines.

At first, masks were ‘strongly encouraged’ when flying, with Regional Express the first airline to make masks compulsory on all Rex flights from 1 June 2020. It wasn’t until January 2021 that Australia tightened its health protocols further and made masks compulsory for all airlines nationwide – as well as in airports.

Those rules remain in place today, and the likes of Qantas and Virgin Australia remain beholden to them.

Read: Use surgical masks not cloth, health authorities urge

“It is a requirement by federal, state and territory governments to wear masks at airports and inflight,” Qantas explains.

Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce said that when it comes to wearing masks during flights “we know that at the moment, it’s the right thing to do. It gives people confidence, allows people to get back in the air.”

Mr Joyce said that it’s likely we will see mask mandates removed when COVID becomes endemic.

“And I hope that’s sooner rather than later. But it depends on the health advice and what the research shows.”

In short, even if masks are removed from public transport on the ground, it’s likely that face masks mandates for flights will remain for longer.

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Written by Ellie Baxter

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