Airlines Ryanair, easyJet, Jet2 and Loganair have insisted that passengers will still be required to wear face masks after July 19.
Prime minister Boris Johnson announced the removal of mandatory wearing of face masks on transport as part of a five-point plan for easing of restrictions this evening. A final decision is expected on July 12.
At the Downing Street briefing, Johnson also confirmed transport secretary Grant Shapps would give more detail on updates to international travel restrictions “later this week”.
Johnson confirmed: “From step four we will maintain our tough border controls, including the red list and – recognising the protection afforded by two doses of vaccine – we will work with the travel industry towards removing the need for fully-vaccinated arrivals to isolate on return from a amber country.”
While Johnson confirmed the legal obligation to wear a face mask was being removed, he said: “Guidance will suggest where you might choose to do so, especially when cases are rising and where you come into contact with people you don’t normally meet in enclosed space, such as crowded public transport.”
The policy has been criticised by scientists and unions, with Unite saying dropping mandatory face mask wearing on public transport amounts to ‘gross negligence’.
The carriers say keeping face masks will protect both passengers and staff from potential spread of Covid.
Ryanair said: “In order to protect the health of our customers and crew, the use of face masks will still be mandatory across all Ryanair flights, regardless of the departing/destination country.”
EasyJet, which brough its policy in across Europe and not in response to UK regulations, said it currently has no plans to drop its requirement for passengers to wear face masks.
It said: “At present there are no changes to easyJet’s onboard mask policy and we will continue to keep this under review.
“We continue to be guided by our inhouse medical adviser and a number of key industry governing bodies that airlines follow including the WHO (World Health Organization), Icao (International Civil Aviation Organisation), Easa (European Union Aviation Safety Agency), the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and public health authorities across Europe, and at present their guidance around the wearing of masks onboard remains unchanged.”
Jet2.com confirmed it has not changed its policy on face masks.
A spokesman said: “The health and safety of our customers and colleagues will always be our number one priority. We will continue to follow the current CAA guidelines and regulations, including the use of face masks at our airports and onboard our flights.”
Regional carrier Loganair confirmed it will continue to require customers on every flight to wear face coverings, unless medically exempt, and pointed out it mandated the wearing of face coverings on flights in May 2020 – before legal requirements were introduced.
Chief operations officer Maurice Boyle said: “Safety and security is always Loganair’s top priority. We believe that a consistent policy across our route network will provide assurance and confidence for each and every customer – and that confidence has been at the forefront of Loganair’s efforts to fly continuously throughout the pandemic to deliver essential connectivity across the UK.
“Therefore, unless a customer is medically exempt from the need to wear a face covering, we’ll be keeping the requirement to wear one in place on every Loganair flight. We’ll keep this under regular review and communicate future changes when the time is right for those to be made.”
British Airways has not changed its face mask policy. It said: “We keep our policies under constant review”.