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?
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.
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.