Despite some experts stating as recently as last month that face masks on passenger planes would likely be here for years to come, some airlines in the United Kingdom are beginning to drop them.
British carrier Jet2 was the first to abandon them for flights in England and Northern Ireland as the U.K. eased its COVID restrictions. Rival airlines EasyJet, TUI and British Airways have done the same and while they still recommend passengers wear masks, they are optional as long as the flight’s arrival or departure points don’t require them.
Here in Canada, there’s no indication as to when federal mandates for masks on planes and trains will end, but individual provinces are beginning to drop their requirements so it’s likely only a matter of time before they go away.
If you are considering ignoring the rules before that time comes, heed the tale of those Sunwing “New Year’s party” passengers, six more of whom were fined $5,000 this week.
Meanwhile, in the United States, where face coverings have been an especially divisive issue, the United States has extended its mask mandate on aircraft and public transit until at least April 18.
While some of the nation’s flight attendant unions wish the masks were here to stay, the union representing those of Southwest Airlines has asked that the mandate be rescinded.
It’s interesting to note that in Asia, where face mask-wearing is a normal practice during cold and flu season, the number of air rage incidents reported over masking rules has been negligible.
Some medical experts have expressed concern that jurisdictions are removing mask requirements too hastily and that the COVID-19 virus and potential mutations remain a threat as long as the majority of the world’s population remains unvaccinated. For that reason, don’t be surprised if you see fellow passengers continuing to wear masks even when they become optional.