British Airways has followed the lead of some other U.K. carriers in announcing the end of its mask mandate effective March 16, except where they’re required to continue imposing one such as flights to the U.S. and to Italy.
The U.S. mask mandate, though, continues for at least one more month,
- The Biden administration didn’t want to be ‘wrong’ if another variant were to cause a spike in cases, rather than re-imposing a mandate if future circumstances warrant
- Joe Brancatelli shared in his subscription newsletter last week that according to an administration source, they could choose to declare victory on the pandemic in a month and having the last highly visible federal restriction still in place in order to remove would be politically useful.
Of course at the point that we have vaccines effective against bad outcomes, much more widespread treatment, and a less virulent strain of the virus a requirement that’s satisfied by ineffective cloth masks makes little sense when masks will no longer be required elsewhere anyway. Even requiring N95 masks on planes wouldn’t do much for virus spread when mitigation measures are no longer in place elsewhere.
Sara Nelson’s flight attendants’ union lobbied to keep the mask mandate, citing children under 5 not having approval for a vaccine, but had to walk back that advocacy because it was controversial to… flight attendants who are forced to wear a mask at work (and this rule affects cabin crew more than passengers).
Children of course are at much less risk from this virus than many other things they do daily, like sitting in the back seat of a car. There are bad outcomes for kids, too, but the mask mandate does little to protect them and passengers may still wear masks if they wish without a federal mandate.
I flew British Airways this week and of course they made several announcements about their mask requirement on the transatlantic flight. They’re required to do so on flights to and from the U.S.
However things were downright civilized once I landed at London Heathrow. My three year old daughter wasn’t expected to mask up at the airport or on our connecting flight. That’s because the masking rule is a BA rule now, not a government-imposed one, and children under 11 aren’t required to follow it. (In Europe broadly the age for mandatory masking has been 5, versus two in the U.S.).
My daughter is good about masking. We bring several different masks for her to choose from, and when she tires of one we get her excited about the next. But not having to worry about this is a load off. Several months ago she got fussy at the end of a flight and declared, ‘I’m going to take my mask off so the police come get you daddy!’
BA crew were already lax about masks, and said nothing to passengers who didn’t wear theirs while sleeping in business class last week or to passengers whose masks were below their nose in Club Europe on my connecting flight.
They did, however, enforce all passengers remaining seated on arrival while they called row numbers where people could get up to remove items from the overhead bin. This is meant to prevent pandemic crowding in the aisles. And then everyone was… taken in a crowded bus to the terminal, which waited to fill up longer as a result of this deplaning procedure with everyone squeezed together. The time for required pandemic procedures is over, and for personal risk-management to take its place.