One Airline Makes Face Masks Optional

One Airline Makes Face Masks Optional

41

For nearly two years now, we’ve more or less all been wearing face masks on planes. Many people can’t help but wonder if this requirement will ever be lifted, and if so, when. Well, one airline in the UK has just made face masks optional. Will this airline be an outlier, or is this a sign of things to come?

Jet2 makes face masks optional on most flights

British ultra low cost carrier Jet2 has just updated its face mask policy in a major way:

  • For flights departing England and Northern Ireland, use of face masks is now optional; this won’t apply for flights from Scotland, where it’s still a legal requirement
  • The use of face masks is no longer legally required, but per UK government guidance, use of face masks is still recommended
  • Given varying policies in different countries, Jet2 will require face masks when landing at international airports, and when arriving at those airports
Face masks will no longer be mandatory on most Jet2 flights

While Jet2 isn’t a global airline, the carrier does have a fleet of nearly 100 aircraft, and operates to 70 destinations across Europe.

Jet2 is the first airline I know of to eliminate the face mask requirement on such a widespread basis. However, it’s not the first airline to make face masks optional in certain regions. In October 2021, SAS announced that face masks would be optional on flights within Nordic countries.

For that matter, in early 2021 Cathay Pacific added a face mask exemption for first & business class passengers when sleeping, arguing that there was sufficient privacy and separation, so there was no need for masks in bed mode.

Cathay Pacific doesn’t require masks when sleeping in business class

When will other airlines eliminate mask requirements?

Unfortunately the concept of airlines ending face mask requirements is pretty complex:

  • In many cases you have government mandates around face masks, so airlines don’t have much of a choice
  • People have differing views on how necessary masks are when vaccines are available on a widespread basis; some people would of course welcome face mask requirements being eliminated, while others would be extremely uncomfortable
  • Then there’s the general challenge of consistency — some destinations will likely require masks for years to come, so it’s complicated for airlines to require masks on some flights but not others, require them during some phases of flight but not others, etc.

In the United States the current federal transportation mask mandate applies through March 18, 2022. However, it could be extended again, as it has been in the past. If I had to speculate, I think the mask mandate will be extended at least one more time, perhaps through very late spring or early summer.

Even if that were to happen, it’s anyone’s guess if US airlines would end their own policies of requiring face masks, which existed before the mandate was put in place. For example, the UK no longer requires face masks on planes, but we’re not seeing all airlines adjust policies accordingly — Jet2 will no longer require masks, while airlines like British Airways and Virgin Atlantic do. Some airlines are going based on the bare minimum legal requirements, while others are going based on recommendations.

Will full service UK carriers follow Jet2’s lead?

Bottom line

UK low cost carrier Jet2 has just become the first airline to make face masks optional on most flights. The airline is now only requiring masks on flights from Scotland (in line with government regulations), plus at foreign airports, where masks may be required. While we’ve seen SAS waive its face mask requirements for flights within Scandinavia, I’d say this is more significant.

It’s anyone’s guess when other airlines will follow. The first step is for government face mask mandates to be lifted, and then the second step is for airlines to decide to modify their policies. I guess the next big question is whether British Airways and Virgin Atlantic start to lift their mandates, since this is no longer a UK requirement (though it is a requirement at many destinations).

In the US we still have the federal transportation mask mandate through mid-March, though there’s a very good chance that gets extended.

When do you think we’ll see mask optional flights on a widespread basis?

(Tip of the hat to Paddle Your Own Kanoo)

Conversations (41)
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  1. Alex Guest

    I can’t wait for airlines to get rid of the mandate. I personally am exempt from wearing a mask because of a medical condition but that results in a lot more hassle and paperwork and checks at the airport and when boarding. Which often turns what is supposed to be uneventful into something stressful and a memorable experience for all the wrong reasons. So I can’t wait for all this mess to be gone.

  2. Alan Gold

    I cannot wait; I am completely fed up wearing a mask anytime. After getting covid in January it became obvious the masks are useless.
    I live in Mexico and here most people within cities still wear masks even when outdoors. They call them cubrebocas (mouth covers) here so now if requested to wear one, I just cover my mouth. Not a single person has said a word.

  3. iamhere Guest

    So what? It is not a major airline and it appears to depend on the origin and destination.

  4. CMorgan Guest

    UA-NYC can you please Troll on some other blog! So over your idiotic illogical posts! Maybe you can go visit your hero Cuomo. Understand he is feeling lonely due to the lack of recent media attention.

  5. PJ Guest

    OMG... SO OVER THIS GARBAGE. Cathay Pacific doesn't require masks for biz class pax's while "sleeping"? You've got to be kidding me! The virus behaves bcuz they paid extra and they're asleep? I'd love to travel internationally but don't want to be denied passage back home if I test positive on the return. I know I could get to Mexico and pay a Coyote to get me to the border and then I'm home free...

    OMG... SO OVER THIS GARBAGE. Cathay Pacific doesn't require masks for biz class pax's while "sleeping"? You've got to be kidding me! The virus behaves bcuz they paid extra and they're asleep? I'd love to travel internationally but don't want to be denied passage back home if I test positive on the return. I know I could get to Mexico and pay a Coyote to get me to the border and then I'm home free but what a hassle- Medical/Political theatre is nearing the end of its life cycle. Passengers and crew that want to mask up by all means please do so. Wear TEN masks... who cares.

  6. flying100 Member

    WOW!
    Hope others will follow.

  7. Tom Guest

    Jet2 is not ultra low cost! It is a low cost airline with a focus on customer service - frequently gets the highest scores on customer service of any airline in UK surveys. Think of it as a bit like JetBlue without business class.

  8. derek Guest

    Not surprising about SAS. In Sweden, if you go shopping, you will see most people bare faced.

  9. Chris D Guest

    The end of the federal mandate will be a very interesting moment. It’s a certainty that, immediately, some airlines (Southwest?) will make masks optional, some (Delta?) will “strongly recommend” them, and some (United?) will continue to require them. Which airlines will fall into which categories will be fascinating to watch.

    1. Never In Doubt Guest

      One guy tried/failed to bomb one plane with his shoe 20 years ago, and we're still taking our shoes off at airports (not Pre-Check!).

      Liquids still limited to 100ml in a quart bag.

      I agree with you, but I wouldn't hold my breath.

    2. K.C. Cooper Guest

      There’s also the issue of international destinations still requiring masks - would the airlines require their full, convoluted exemption procedure or would they switch to self-attestation/the honor system?

  10. AGrumpyOldMan_GA Gold

    As you say, this is a complicated road, but I am encouraged that we are finally getting some movement on ending these masks requirements. It is long overdue since we have had a vaccine for over a year now. I am still not willing to travel internationally this year, not due to fear of COVID but more of a concern that COVID paranoia will result in a suboptimal travel experience both in-flight and while visiting...

    As you say, this is a complicated road, but I am encouraged that we are finally getting some movement on ending these masks requirements. It is long overdue since we have had a vaccine for over a year now. I am still not willing to travel internationally this year, not due to fear of COVID but more of a concern that COVID paranoia will result in a suboptimal travel experience both in-flight and while visiting places overseas. But I am considering my first cross-country trip on Amtrak this summer, while I know I can ditch the mask in a roomette, it would be nice not to have to go through mask theater every time you step out into the rest of the train. Here's hoping the politicians are getting the message and we won't have to wait until Jan. 2025 to be released from the mask police!

    1. Steve Diamond

      So true, so many people are not traveling international because of fear of getting stuck somewhere and useless covid political theatre. I guess it has become too good of a business with all the useless testing requirements and the kickbacks to politicians keep rolling in. Such a shame i have a job that im not legally allowed to do work when out of the country so if i get stuck somewhere because of an inaccurate...

      So true, so many people are not traveling international because of fear of getting stuck somewhere and useless covid political theatre. I guess it has become too good of a business with all the useless testing requirements and the kickbacks to politicians keep rolling in. Such a shame i have a job that im not legally allowed to do work when out of the country so if i get stuck somewhere because of an inaccurate test or some illogical change to restrictions i could lose my job despite being triple vaxxed.

    2. AGrumpyOldMan_GA Gold

      That's my concern. If I am out west and, for whatever reason I can't get on my flight back to Atlanta, worst come to worst, I can rent a car one way and get home. If I am in Europe and fail a COVID test when I feel fine - or if I happen to get it and be sick for a few days - I am completely stuck. And that is a bigger logistical headache then domestic travel. Hopefully next year I can get back to Europe! Been too long!

  11. Creditcrunch Diamond

    There are subtle changes and reviews taking place across travel to and within the UK. I noticed on the Virgin Atlantic website that passengers over 12 now must wear a mask (previously over 2’s) and they are reviewing the situation in light of the UK Governments removal of all covid restrictions ( you no longer need to wear a mask on public transport or in stations). Heathrow website has not yet been updated with the...

    There are subtle changes and reviews taking place across travel to and within the UK. I noticed on the Virgin Atlantic website that passengers over 12 now must wear a mask (previously over 2’s) and they are reviewing the situation in light of the UK Governments removal of all covid restrictions ( you no longer need to wear a mask on public transport or in stations). Heathrow website has not yet been updated with the new rules so I expect masks will no longer be required at airports shortly.

    1. AGrumpyOldMan_GA Gold

      Good for the UK leading the way on this. Too bad the US government is "leading" from behind.

  12. SEM Member

    It will be interesting to see how quickly those that have been chanting/singing/screaming "FOLLOW THE SCIENCE" will change their opinion as soon as "the science" no longer aligns with their political view of this...

    1. AGrumpyOldMan_GA Gold

      Very true. We know they will find some way to twist science, find obscure voices refuting the science, and generally clinging to their fear/desire to control/etc. You know...hypocrisy.

    2. Steve Diamond

      That is the worst part of all of this covid nonsense is how political it got, both sides equally to blame, and it shows our politicians dont care about our health or wellbeing just our vote.

  13. JoePro Guest

    For anyone concerned, just remember that the 6 foot rule stopped applying on airplanes really quickly... and trust me, this had nothing to do with profits, believe me... but rather, the air filtration system on these things is insane. It's the best, by far.
    So if you spit into someone else's mouth while in the aisle, they won't get covid. It's that good.

    ....anyway, as I see it, you either require social distancing on...

    For anyone concerned, just remember that the 6 foot rule stopped applying on airplanes really quickly... and trust me, this had nothing to do with profits, believe me... but rather, the air filtration system on these things is insane. It's the best, by far.
    So if you spit into someone else's mouth while in the aisle, they won't get covid. It's that good.

    ....anyway, as I see it, you either require social distancing on the plane with masks, or if filtration is so spectacular that you don't need social distancing, then masks should go too.

  14. Rob Guest

    My other half left LHR (no masks) to CUN (no masks). Yet BA forced everyone to wear them for the flight which all seemed rather silly.

    1. Airfarer Diamond

      I've had BA crew who aren't so fanatical in enforcement, but UA, wow, they are just nuts. I got sharply repremanded when I was still putting my mask back on as I was coming out of the toilet. I thought I was back in school again. TATL in business both airlines.

  15. Patti Guest

    Smart move by Cathay. I've not worn mine when sleeping in business since the beginning in 2020. Just turn my head and put a light cover over me.

    I've worn masks on flights before the pandemic since I'm highly susceptible to respiratory infections. Will be nice to have an option again.

    Now do something about that ridiculous 1 day covid test requirement

  16. Sean M. Diamond

    And yet you have airlines such as Qatar Airways maintaining blatantly racist policies that "passengers from Africa" (based on citizenship? point of origin? ethnicity? - never quite clarified) needed to wear both face masks and face shields on board their flights until just last week.

    1. AGrumpyOldMan_GA Gold

      While I do not see the point of the requirement, where did their requirement apply only to a single race? Do those of you who immediately scream "racist!" over...everything...ever stop to think how illogical your claims are in 2022???

    2. Sean M. Diamond

      I think using the term "passengers from Africa" is pretty darn racist when discriminating against those passengers. Just my $0.02

    3. John Guest

      I creamed myself over $0.02 It was almost an acronym! Almost. Acronyms make me hard (hint)

    4. John Guest

      @AGrumpyOldMan_GA

      Count yourself lucky Sean M. did not flood you with an acronym-laced reply to show how smart and 'with it' he really is! Once he replied with a post which was literally more than 50% acronyms, and got roasted for it. He's still trying to live down that shame..LOL (oh heck, I just gave an acronym). But try not to mention it. He's very touchy about that boo boo.

    5. ConcordeBoy Diamond

      What do you mean it was "never quite clarified"...? It was point blank on their website and elsewhere that pax whose trip originated in South Africa, Zambia and Mozambique would have that requirement. Nothing to do with race. Stop the lies.

  17. Luke Guest

    Nice, now I'm interested in specifically looking for routings I can book on this airline on my UK trip this May.

    Part of me would rather fly on a mask optional flight across the US on Spirit Airlines over a forced mask flight on United Polaris flat bed!

    1. UA-NYC Guest

      except guess who's still dying the most from Covid each day in the US? that's right, the Trump boot liking MAGA mouth breathing anti-vaxxers. Darwinism baby...

    2. SEM Member

      Right, right...wait ... ... ...

      Except that rather significant amount of non-vaxxers/"anti" [if you will]-vaxxers in the Pacific Northwest that have a history of being against all vaccines...I'm pretty sure they aren't into doing anything with Trump's boots except something I cannot type on here...

      Humm, wait, there's also that issue with the African-American/Black population and their vaccination numbers...Again, they don't seem to be big Trump peeps either...

      Shoot @UA-NYC, I thought that you had...

      Right, right...wait ... ... ...

      Except that rather significant amount of non-vaxxers/"anti" [if you will]-vaxxers in the Pacific Northwest that have a history of being against all vaccines...I'm pretty sure they aren't into doing anything with Trump's boots except something I cannot type on here...

      Humm, wait, there's also that issue with the African-American/Black population and their vaccination numbers...Again, they don't seem to be big Trump peeps either...

      Shoot @UA-NYC, I thought that you had made a valid point here, but it looks like, as it is with almost all of your posts, you didn't...

      Stop spreading hate so much and remember that the Democratic Party is [was?] the Party of acceptance, not hate...

    3. Don Guest

      lol, masks were the most useless theater ever.
      Just like taking off your shoes in security.

      20 years ago, some government bureaucrat made a mandate.
      And here we are.

      More theater from the powerful, to keep the people weak.
      Just give them a slogan! 'Free Tibet!' 'Follow The Science!'

      And the people comply, happily.

      --
      You guys all got lied to for 2 years about covid.
      That masks work (they...

      lol, masks were the most useless theater ever.
      Just like taking off your shoes in security.

      20 years ago, some government bureaucrat made a mandate.
      And here we are.

      More theater from the powerful, to keep the people weak.
      Just give them a slogan! 'Free Tibet!' 'Follow The Science!'

      And the people comply, happily.

      --
      You guys all got lied to for 2 years about covid.
      That masks work (they obviously do nothing)
      Vaccines stop the spread (they obviously don't)
      And that mandates do anything (all the data says they don't)

      Don't celebrate masks going away. Be angry they were ever mandated by evil people.

    4. ElBriggy Guest

      Sigh. We're going to be dealing with this for years aren't we?

      Masks work. They work even better than we thought they did.

      Vaccines work. They might not stop everybody getting infected, but they stop most people getting infected. This is better.

      Mandates work, because they enforce the above.

      Pretty simple really.

    5. UA-NYC Guest

      Don, the MAGA mouth breather who only shows up on OMAAT to make Covid-related posts...go get your first ever passport already

    6. Wc Guest

      People who believe masks are useless in containing virus, please be willing to live by that rule. If you ever need surgery, make sure you force the surgical staff to go maskless.

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Don Guest

lol, masks were the most useless theater ever. Just like taking off your shoes in security. 20 years ago, some government bureaucrat made a mandate. And here we are. More theater from the powerful, to keep the people weak. Just give them a slogan! 'Free Tibet!' 'Follow The Science!' And the people comply, happily. -- You guys all got lied to for 2 years about covid. That masks work (they obviously do nothing) Vaccines stop the spread (they obviously don't) And that mandates do anything (all the data says they don't) Don't celebrate masks going away. Be angry they were ever mandated by evil people.

4
SEM Member

It will be interesting to see how quickly those that have been chanting/singing/screaming "FOLLOW THE SCIENCE" will change their opinion as soon as "the science" no longer aligns with their political view of this...

4
Steve Guest

partys over libs!

4
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