London’s Heathrow Airport has announced that it will end the requirement to wear masks in the airport, based on the recent UK government announcement that all COVID travel restrictions and regulations will end from Friday.
Here are the full details from the Heathrow press release in my inbox:
Those traveling through Heathrow will no longer be required to wear a face-covering after the airport announced that it is moving away from a mandate from Wednesday 16 March. In recognition that the pandemic is not over, Heathrow strongly encourages those at the airport to continue wearing a face-covering – particularly when coming into close contact with others – although this will no longer be a firm requirement. The change mirrors steps taken by other transport organizations in the UK, and applies across all of Heathrow’s terminals, bus and railway stations, and office spaces.
Heathrow’s home carriers British Airways and Virgin Atlantic welcomed the move, signaling that they were preparing to follow suit by dropping the face-covering requirement onboard their aircraft as soon as regulatory requirements for their destinations allow. We encourage passengers to check onboard face-covering requirements with their airlines before traveling.
The removal of the mandatory requirement reflects society’s move towards learning to live with COVID longer term. It is now possible because of the continued strong protection provided by vaccination programs around the world. Heathrow will maintain a wide array of COVID-secure measures – including enhanced ventilation in all terminal buildings – which will help keep people safe on their journeys through the airport. Should a significant rise in COVID cases or a future variant of concern materialize, Heathrow will not hesitate to reinstate the mandatory use of face coverings at the airport.
Face coverings will remain available at the airport to support those who wish to continue wearing them. We know some passengers may feel vulnerable, and we are encouraging colleagues to be respectful and put on a face covering when near a passenger who requests it.
Commenting on the change, Heathrow Chief Operating Officer Emma Gilthorpe 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 defense, 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 traveling. 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.”
Corneel Koster, Chief Customer & Operating Officer, Virgin Atlantic said:
“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.
“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.”