British Airways Becomes Largest Airline To Drop Mask Rules

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.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. The reality of America these days… our choices are between someone who acts without thinking and another who only reacts and never leads. Something really wrong when those are our choices.

    We either can’t lead or won’t lead so may as well let the Brits be the example for the free world again. Bravo to BA.

  2. Good. And to think that a few months ago there was talk of testing everyone before they took even a domestic flight. Once this no mask policy really gains traction it’s going to have a domino effect on dropping it everywhere as it will make no sense for an off/on/off condition from one flight (or for that matter one building) to another. For better or worse you can see things relaxing here in Minnesota, with some school districts having totally given up on the policy and others halfheartedly going through the motions. And I think that even if another variant comes strongly in, it will be quite difficult to go back to this. People have other issues, both personal and international, to worry about.

  3. “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.”


  4. . even if you have gotten the amazing Biden vaccine without your 2 n95 masks you can still get the virus and will most likely die from the virus. what is wrong with the leaders of the world. china is doing the right thing and locking millions of people down to stop the spread. i knew it would take more then 2 weeks. all of you who fly go on cruises or to a store have blood on your hands

  5. Great news. Except my next flights are to LHR on UA – who are mask fanatics – and then on BA to Italy. Then back to the States on BA.

  6. @jojo

    Wasn’t it under the previous administration- President Trumps’-the vaccines were developed and made available??

  7. I’m jealous. Too bad we are stuck with such losers for “leaders.” Has anyone else noticed Fauci has fallen off the face of the earth? He’s become a liability for the administration to the point they had to muzzle him. It was never about the science.

  8. Fauci is in hiding awaiting the numerous Congressional hearings where he will be grilled by the new Republican majority after the November elections. He will probably face numerous legal actions as well. He will retire in disgrace.

  9. Declaring “pandemic victory” long after most of the country has been over it for months won’t even fool typical “low information” voters. Maybe the media will parrot the line like they are about the “Putin gas hike” or “Russian inflation”, but we aren’t all that stupid.

    Anyone want to take bets on Biden handing the reins to Harris in late Jan-early Feb 2023. I think the odds are still long, but if the Dems take a shellacking in Nov, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him step down. Not that it would be an improvement.

  10. @JOJO… as you wish but leave the rest of us alone. Wny not join Biden in his basement.

  11. Some sources say that the UK is dropping all covid-related border restrictions.

    If so and in combination w/ the mask mandates following on British Airways flights, there is some serious dough flowing across the Atlantic.

    US airline execs have been desperately trying to get the mask mandate dropped but instead are getting the President they pushed on everyone else.

  12. Austria still requires masks on flights. Austria still requires masks indoors. In the US, we can get away with a lot when it comes to what a mask is. In Austria, a mask MUST be an FFP2 mask. If you’re caught with a mask that does not meet or exceed this standard, you’re in deep kim-chee. In other jurisdictions, they’re tightening not loosening restrictions.

    It’s tiring hearing the moaning from both sides.

    Cross your legs and hold it for another few weeks.

  13. @The_Donald….Hope you are right that JoJo was being sarcastic as I couldn’t believe anyone could be that stupid ! Of course, these days who knows !

  14. Alan . . . and the South enslaved millions of human beings . . . and members of the United States Army committed war crimes in Iraq . . . and Tucker is touting Russian justifications for invading the Ukraine. What’s your point?

  15. Amazingly, Gary still “thinks” the experimental gene therapies are effective. It’s obvious he’s been sleep-walking the past 4-6 months. Unbelievable!

  16. Masks fog up my glasses and infringe on my liberty. Vaccines will kill you. The world is flat!! Cigarettes are good for you. BA is to be commended because it’s time to give people like Gary and me the opportunity to kill the cancer patient next to us who is taking immuno suppressant meds for their cancer. So what if they are only traveling for the first time in 2+ years to see their dying parent. They wanna fly, that’s their decision (!) but they better not mess w/me and my liberty!!! God Bless BA. And Gary who writes a brilliant “travel” blog mostly about black hole politics and he’s always on the wrong side. Sad.

  17. Our family is all 3x vaxxed. We wear masks some of the time. While together in a small Florida 2/2 condo, our healthy daughter, 29, came down with a bad case of Covid. Hubby, 74, and I, 60, never got it, despite being with our daughter even before she showed symptoms, during the “it’s just a cold phase”, and even after the worst symptoms like rash, fever, and loss of smell began. (We geezers think we had some immunity due to the Shingrix shot).

    Anyway, after ^^ that experience we don’t see the need for masking unless we are on a flight that requires testing upon arrival, or as a mandated in-flight requirement.

  18. Biden has been “wrong” on every other decision so why not continue with mask dictate? BTW, I hope those of you who were FORCED to get vaccinated will get your day in court. You deserve compensation, big compensation for the duress and potential health issues. I say this as a veteran that has witnessed what Agent Orange (a chemical that US Government stated was “safe” and not harmful to humans) has done to many Vietnam Era Veterans.

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