The United Kingdom’s third largest Airline, Jet2, has just announced that they will make masks optional for all domestic flights. The Change went into effect on Monday and has received mixed responses by both travelers and the media. This is only one month after the government of the UK announced that they were ending all internal COVID restrictions. Travelers visiting England will no longer need to deal with curfews, social distancing laws, limits on gatherings, mask mandates or vaccine passports.
The Removal Of Masks Is A HUGE Deal
Jet2 is leading what could be a massive shift in how the airline industry views masks. Several airports in the UK have already made masks optional for travelers. For example, Manchester Airport says that it “strongly recommends the wearing of face coverings in all parts of the airport campus, including on airport buses”.
Jet2 and the UK aren’t the only ones pondering the removal of masks on planes. CEOs of the major US based airlines (American, United, Delta, and Southwest) have all been involved in congressional hearings mulling over the need for face masks on planes. As of now, the federal mandate requiring masks on planes in the United States is set to expire on March 18th and it is unclear if the Biden administration will move to extend the mandate. As Omicron cases plummet, and restrictions are dropped nationwide, it will be hard to make the case for extending the airline mask mandate for much longer.
But Let’s Not Get Too Excited…
While Jet2’s mask removal is a step in the direction back to normalcy, in practice there will still be a lot of mask-wearing on Jet2’s flights. The airline’s policy applies to destinations with England, Whales, and Northern Ireland and these countries have also removed mask requirements.
Airlines need to observe the rules of the destinations that they are flying to. Meaning masks will still need to be worn on flights to Scotland and the rest of Europe until we start to see regulations dropped by other countries. More and more restrictions are being dropped every day.
Would It Be Safe To Fly Without A Mask?
While there have been some cases of COVID spreading on planes, it’s a lot less common than you might think.
A 2020 study conducted for the U.S. Department of Defense was carried out by researchers from Boeing and United Airlines. The study found that aircraft ventilation and filtration systems reduced the risk of airborne COVID exposure by more than 99%. Essentially, the air on an airplane is cycled out every few minutes. Thus not allowing the virus to remain airborne for long.
However, the study does not account for direct communication between passengers or between passengers and flight attendants and how that would be different without masks. I also want to note that in the above-mentioned congressional hearings, the flight attendants union came out against the removal of masks.
A Ripple Effect?
Though Jet2 is not a massive airline, this is a bold move to take that other airlines will be noticing. This move could be the beginning of a ripple effect through national and low-cost airlines alike. It will be interesting to monitor how airlines like Ryanair and EasyJet handle the easing of mask mandates as well.
Will they stop requiring masks for flights within the UK? Will other countries begin to drop their mask mandates on planes? We can only hope that this pandemic is behind us and that things will return to normal really soon. This announcement from Jet2 gives me a lot of hope.
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com