Heathrow airport mask mandate ends – but most passengers still wear face coverings

Heathrow airport mask mandate ends – but most passengers still wear face coverings
Airport still ‘strongly encourages’ passengers to use masks

The ending of mandatory mask-wearing at Heathrow has seen little change in passengers’ behaviour.

Face coverings are no longer obligatory at the UK’s busiest airport, though passengers are “strongly encouraged” to continue wearing masks.

The change applies across all of Heathrow’s terminals, bus and railway stations and offices.

During a two-hour stay in the airport’s very busy Terminal 2 on Wednesday morning, it was clear that a large majority of travellers – around 80 per cent – were continuing to cover their faces.

Airport staff said it was a similar picture to earlier days, during which some passengers had declined to follow the mask mandate.

The vast majority of airline staff, including pilots and cabin crew passing through the terminal, were wearing masks.

The entrance to the check-in area still features a large notice warning: “You must wear a face covering in the terminal.”

Heathrow’s managers say that signs will be gradually removed over the coming days.

“I didn’t know the rules had changed,” said one passenger, Tony from Wakefield, who was checking in for an Air Canada flight to Vancouver.

“It had to end some time, though.”

An airport statement read: “Face coverings will remain available at the airport to support those who wish to continue wearing them.

“We know some passengers may feel vulnerable, and we are encouraging colleagues to be respectful and put on a face covering when near a passenger who requests it.

“Should a significant rise in Covid cases or a future variant of concern materialise, Heathrow will not hesitate to reinstate the mandatory use of face coverings at the airport.”

Simultaneously with the Heathrow change, Virgin Atlantic has dropped its mask mandate where destinations allow travel without a face covering.

Three flights have so far taken off with no obligation to wear masks.

The first “face-covering optional” departure was from Heathrow to Barbados just after 9am, followed by a service to Nassau in the Bahamas and a second flight to Barbados.

Most countries served by flights from the UK still mandate mask wearing on flights.

The US, which is the leading destination for travellers from Heathrow, will insist on face coverings on flights to and from American airports until 18 April at the earliest.