a man sitting in a chair holding a spray gun

There was some hope that the Biden Administration would drop the mask mandate for airports and airplanes on March 18th, but the administration swooped in quickly to let people know that wouldn’t be happening.

Instead, a review date of April 18th would become the next possible juncture for any major decisions to remove masks. Historically, that meant that other countries would wait too, and no moves would be made until the US made theirs.

But to my disbelief, the United Kingdom is dropping every last Covid-19 restriction out there this week, including travel, and UK airlines have agreed to follow suit.

From the 18th of March, masks will no longer be required on flights bound for the UK, or to any destinations which no longer require them. Heathrow has also dropped its masking requirement.

This means for the first time since March, 2020, I’ll be boarding a commercial flight without any mask requirement, and a destination without any forms or arrival hassles whatsoever. Will I still wear mine?

a man sitting in a chair with a face mask

UK Drops Final Travel Restrictions

From the 18th of March, the UK will scrap the remaining travel restrictions in place and return life both domestically and in regards to travel, truly to pre-pandemic times. All rules and regulations relating to Covid-19 are out.

No masks required anywhere, no forms to fill out and no social distancing. Anywhere.

There’s no doubt that news will put some weary people off travel to the UK, but for people who have taken the measures they deemed necessary to give themselves the best protections, it’s equally a celebration of a return to normalcy.

In response, UK Airlines including Jet2, British Airways and Virgin Atlantic have said masks will be optional on flights to the UK, but will still be required to destinations where mask mandates remain in places.

In reality, people removing masks for meal time and any drinking needs during the heights of the pandemic reduced the efficacy of these personal protective pieces all along, so it’s not as massive of a jump as many believe.

Crew will largely continue to wear masks until further notice.

a man wearing a face mask

No Mask For Me, But…

I have a flight to London this Sunday and I won’t be wearing a mask on board. Since I’ll be departing from Portugal, I’ll need to wear one in the airport and until I’m on board, but once I’m seated, off we go.

Though I am in no way obligated to at this point, I still test regularly for peace of mind and the added safety of those around me. That’s why I personally feel “ok” about it. If I felt any symptoms, I’d test and even if negative, I’d then mask up.

I just don’t want to put immunocompromised people at added unnecessary risk, so I take the 30 seconds to tickle the nostrils. I hope — but don’t believe — the pandemic may make us more courteous to each other. At the end of the day it’s courtesy and care — not law — but I feel strongly about it.

If I’m unwell, I’ll mask up from now on if I must go out in public. When I don’t need to go out, I’ll do my best to stay in. This has worked wonders for public health in Asia for decades and it’s as simple as respect and courtesy to fellow humans.

Cabin Environments Among Safest Indoor Spaces

Statistically, studies have concluded that cabin environments on planes are up to 5X safer than other indoor environments such as hospital air, and 15X safer than most indoor spaces.

Particularly in business class, “following the science” would say that planes are the safest indoor spaces to take masks off, not pubs or clubs or any of the other places people feel oddly comfortable sweating in close proximity.

There are also situations, where I’ll be selfish about masks. If I’m riding the subway, tube or another tight quarters enclosed space in winter, with people hacking left and right, I’ll probably wear a mask for my own protection. No one wants that $#!t!

Woah, Flying Without A Mask

This Sunday, I’ll be flying my partner and our 2 year old next to me. I’m indoors in close contact with both of them as I write this. Our (now) 2 year old has flown internationally all throughout the pandemic and I’ll actually be really happy to join her in not wearing a mask.

My wife and I took the steps we believed would give us the best protection against Covid-19. For us, that meant getting vaccinated and boosted. I respect personal privacy and choice on the matter. Taking our masks off on select flights is now a legal choice we’re willing to make — and It will feel surreal, no doubt.

I’ll never judge someone for keeping their mask on when flying, and now that I’m no longer legally obligated to do so on select flights, I think counter judgement wouldn’t be fair in my direction either. People can do what feels right for them. In certain cases, I may still wear masks on planes too.

As long as I continue to feel well, I won’t on Sunday though.

For now, we’ll have to wait and see if other destinations and other airlines outside of UK jump on the trend, or whether a longer, slower approach will continue. Europe is quickly swiping away at Covid-19 protocols, which leaves the US and Asia.

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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  1. You say that you will wear a mask “for your own protection” at times. Best then to use FFP3 grade masks as the standard ones protect others against you. Prices are much lower now than earlier in the pandemic

  2. Hopefully the covid cultists in the US will wake up and realize those silly cloth chin diapers are about as effective as all those shots they keep touting for otherwise healthy individuals. END THE VACCINE THEATRE!

  3. Why didn’t they respect people’s right to make health choices for two years?

    Why just now?

    Science… lol. It’s always been about politics and power.

  4. The requirement to still wear one inbound to the US is dumb. Once you land, maybe but only because LGB and his minions are so feeble minded.
    If you’re traveling to a country from Heathrow etc… where a mask is not required you’re fine. But depart for the US? Nope.
    Because covid treats you differently depending on your aircraft/destination???????????

  5. Bravo, hopefully the US will wake up and follow suit. Can’t imagine this mask on transportation policy makes it past June in the US, but who knows. There are still folks driving around with their masks on with their windows up inside their vehicles….by themselves.

  6. Thank you for your well-balanced commentary on this issue. We will probably continue to wear masks in airports and on planes, as an additional precaution. We will probably also continue to fly business/first class which allows us more room and ability to keep to ourselves.

  7. Sleepy Joe and his minions are always behind the 8 ball. They will only learn once they get humiliated in the upcoming midterms.

  8. Enjoy it while you can. The Telegraph just reported Covid hospitalizations are up 19 – 31% in the UK, depending on location. Cases have doubled in the past two weeks. Too much relaxation too soon just leads to the next surge.

      1. And there was always going to be a rise. Speaking to ER physicians, their key is that (most) people are coming and going, not coming and staying, or being escalated to more severe levels of treatments. There has, and always will be many illnesses in the world. At this point, I’d rather people be tested for norovirus than covid-19 if I’m going to sit next to them, but would prefer fewer (or no) tests over either options.

    1. It’s endemic, spread helps to build immunity. Have a look at Sweden vs Hong Kong.
      I know it’s given a lot of covid fanatics meaning to their life, but it’s time to move on.
      (also, masks do absolutely nothing)

  9. Am landing with my family in Lisbon, from LHR, this coming Saturday. Will look out for you and your family. Good news on the masks. Would be good to see a ’48 hours in Lisbon’ perspective from you.

  10. 1. Very bad medical judgment to not wear a good mask.
    2. Bad logic thinking that no mask is a return to normalcy. It is not normalcy when there is a pandemic. The coronavirus does not stop infecting just because a bureaucrat declared that some safety measure is over.
    3. Cabin air is not the safest. There have been documented instances of TB spread. I once got a very bad cold in 2010 sitting next to a coughing woman.
    4. When you don’t wear a good mask, you are doing something as bad as drunk driving. Same logic…drunk drivers don’t always kill people. Sometimes they bang up their car but they still get home alive just like some people get Covid but manage not to die. Mild cases of Covid does frequently result in brain shrinkage, it was recently found.

    1. Look, I understand we’re all in different places with our feelings about the world reopening, but you’re just simply off base here. What evidence do you offer that counters the UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE on real world tests about cabin air? They did these tests to assess viability of troop transport. Why would they lie?

      We’ve made the advancements in treatment and prevention necessary to declare endemic, rather than pandemic. What was once the Spanish Flu is now something that does not in fact kill millions. I have little love for politics and the theatre of political decisions, but your opinions sound like someone who was happiest staying home before the pandemic, and now is always and forever. I wish you the best.

  11. Kudos to the UK for taking this step.

    Sweden, Norway and many other countries have already dropped all requirements and are doing great.

  12. Without the mask is one thing: but I hope the flight attendant cleans you up after spilling all those melting jelly beans all over you. 🙂

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