(CNN) — Face coverings have turn into a staple of air journey over the previous couple years. For some passengers, they’ve confirmed divisive — masks non-compliance has been blamed for the majority of US disruptive inflight incidents up to now in 2022.

Now they’re beginning to vanish from the skies altogether. British Airways and Virgin Atlantic are set to make mask-wearing optionally available for passengers and crew on certain flights from March 16.

Heathrow, BA and Virgin Atlantic say they’re following the authorities steerage for England and Northern Ireland, the place the authorized requirement to put on a face overlaying on public transport and indoor areas has been eliminated. Masks stay obligatory on public transport in Scotland and Wales.

Smaller UK airways Jet2 and Tui have additionally dropped face masks for choose flights.

Route-specific guidelines

Going mask-free will solely be permitted on certain Virgin Atlantic and British Airways flights.

That’s as a result of every vacation spot has completely different guidelines and legal guidelines relating to masks and aviation.

“This policy will be introduced gradually, beginning with our Caribbean services from Heathrow and Manchester airports,” reads an announcement from Corneel Koster, Virgin’s chief buyer and working officer. Virgin has printed full details on the mask-free flights on its web site.

Meanwhile, an announcement from British Airways’ chief working officer Jason Mahoney stated BA was “working through” every locations’ native restrictions and authorized necessities.

BA’s official line is that “customers will only be required to wear a face covering on board our flights if the destination they’re traveling to requires it.”

However, that does not routinely imply face masks might be left at residence when touring to the UK.

Some locations at present require masks for inward and outward sure flights — comparable to the US, the place the masks mandate is about to be in place till at the very least April 18.

Virgin Atlantic says locations Delhi, Islamabad, Hong Kong, Johannesburg, Lahore, Lagos, Mumbai, Shanghai and Tel Aviv have comparable guidelines, which means vacationers should proceed to masks up on board even when they’re touring from these locations to the UK.

As the face overlaying rule will now be decided by the particular legal guidelines surrounding face coverings in particular locations, there’s potential for confusion amongst vacationers and airline workers.

In response to a passenger asking about mask-wearing on flights to and from Portugal, a BA consultant on Twitter said: “I imagine you wouldn’t need to wear a mask on a flight to the UK, due to UK law around masks. However, this hasn’t been communicated yet.”

Respecting fellow passengers

In their statements, each Virgin Atlantic and British Airways’ statements spotlight that passengers ought to respect different vacationers’ preferences on mask-optional flights.

While the transfer will probably be welcomed by some who really feel the masks have turn into superfluous because of vaccine necessities and the altering panorama of the pandemic, others are sad.

Frequent flier Jade Eyles, an assistant educating fellow at Imperial College London, tells CNN Travel she thinks one answer might be seating passengers in the cabin in accordance with their face overlaying desire.

“Keeping those who would like to wear a mask in one section would then reduce the risk of transmission for that population, and supports those individuals who are vulnerable or do want to take additional precautions to not catch Covid-19,” she says.

Neither British Airways nor Virgin Atlantic commented when requested by CNN Travel whether or not cabins might be divided into sections in accordance with vacationers’ masks desire.

Eyles’ companion is predicated in the US and whereas her journey to go to him there is not at present impacted by the new guidelines, Eyles says she finds Virgin Atlantic and British Airways’ steps to remove face masks “frustrating.”

“Although air is frequently replaced on planes, I wouldn’t personally feel comfortable sitting next to someone without a mask on,” says Eyles.



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