So, Should You Still Wear Face Masks On Flights?

Airlines including TUI and Jet2 have ditched mandatory masks.
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All travel restrictions in the UK are to be lifted from March 18, meaning you no longer need to do passenger locator forms or do Covid tests upon arrival.

And airlines are also harking back to the pre-pandemic days where you didn’t have to wear masks.

Jet2 became the first airline to scrap the mandatory face mask requirement. Holidaymakers from England and Northern Ireland will be able to travel on the carrier without needing to cover their faces.

While the requirement is lifted, the airline urged people to still carry a mask for their destination and recommended possibly wearing them on the plane.

Now, other carriers have joined suit. TUI Airways has also dropped its face mask mandate for flights to and from England and Northern Ireland. British Airways and Virgin supported the move, saying they would also be revising their rules soon.

And Heathrow Airport is also getting in on the action as it drops its facial covering rule, though it still encourages people to wear a mask if they can.

Heathrow said in a statement: “We strongly encourage those at the airport to continue wearing a face covering – particularly when coming into close contact with others. Face coverings will remain available at the airport to support those who wish to continue wearing them.”

A Jet 2 spokesperson said: “It is no longer a legal requirement to wear a face mask in England and Northern Ireland, including at our airports or onboard our aircraft.

“However, as per UK Government guidance, we recommend that customers continue to wear a face mask in these spaces, and we remind customers that they will need to wear one when they get to their overseas destination.”

Ryanair said it also hopes to make the same move in the spring of this year.

But is it too early to eschew these precautionary methods?

We spoke to professor Gurch Randhawa, director of the University of Bedfordshire’s Institute for Health Research.

He tells us: “We have to accept that with an air-borne virus such as Covid-19 and with so many parts of the world still unvaccinated that there will be future variants and surges. Therefore, we need to ensure we maintain a robust defence strategy to Covid-19 – surveillance, vaccinations, testing, ventilation, masking, and developing Covid-19 treatments.”

He also points out that travellers are packed into small spaces, sitting in close proximity to one another.

“Wearing a mask while on a plane is a sensible protection measure as passengers are sat close together,” he says.

“Modelling studies have shown that risk of in-flight transmission is fairly low due to the air being frequently filtered on a plane. However, to minimise the risk of transmitting Covid-19, measures such as wearing a mask and symptom screening prior to travel are sensible precautions to keep in place. In the meantime, we need to redouble our efforts in ensuring vaccine availability across the world, especially in low income countries.”

It might be a minor inconvenience to sport a face mask, but at least it keeps us all safer.