Businesses and trade organizations in the air travel industry have welcomed the end of the remaining Covid travel restrictions.
Heathrow airport said it would remove a requirement for passengers to wear masks at its facilities following the government’s announcement that all measures, including passenger locator forms, would end on Friday.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said on Monday the changes will allow “more freedom in time for Easter” and mean “you can travel like old times”.
Some have welcomed the move with open arms, including Heathrow Airport, which said it would remove mask requirements on Wednesday.
Its chief operating officer, Emma Gilthorpe, said she was “pleased” with the announcement.
“We have worked hard to keep our passengers and colleagues safe during the pandemic,” he said.
“We acted quickly to institute face coverings as one of our first lines of defense and are pleased that we can now move away from a mandatory requirement as society learns to live with Covid longer-term.
“While we still recommend using them, we can trust that the investments we have made in COVID safety measures (some of which are not always visible) combined with the fantastic protection the vaccine provides will continue to keep people safe while traveling. .”
Virgin Atlantic and British Airways also announced that they will be removing mask requirements on some routes.
From Wednesday, British Airways customers will only need face coverings on board flights if their destination requires it, while Virgin Atlantic said it would “gradually” remove mandatory mask rules, starting with Caribbean flights from London. and Manchester.
Corneel Koster, Virgin Atlantic’s director of operations and customer care, said: “As we learn to live with Covid and with the legal requirement to wear a face mask now removed in England, we believe our customers should have the personal choice of use one or not. face masks on board on routes where international regulations on the use of face masks do not apply”.
He added that masks will be required on most services, including those to or from the United States until April 18 “at the earliest.”
Jason Mahoney, chief operating officer of British Airways, said the move was “welcome” and “a positive step forward”.
He said: “As an international airline, we fly to a large number of countries around the world, all of which have their own local restrictions and legal requirements.
“For destinations where the use of a face covering is not mandatory, our customers can make a personal choice and we kindly request that everyone respect each other’s preferences.”
Julia Simpson, President and CEO of the World Travel & Tourism Council, said: “Other countries abandoned passenger locator forms weeks ago, but it is good news that the UK government has now lifted all travel restrictions for come to the UK.
“If we’re going to compete on a world stage, we need to be ‘open for business’ and not ask people to fill out lengthy forms.”
Airlines Jet2.com and Tui Airways recently announced that they would relax their rules on masks.
The Airport Operators Association (AOA), the trade association for UK airports, said “unrestricted travel is good news for passengers”.
AOA CEO Karen Dee said: “People should be encouraged to book long-awaited holidays, trips to see family and friends abroad they haven’t seen in a long time, and travel to rekindle business ties with others. countries.
“However, recovery is not a given, and with the rising cost of living, rising fuel prices and uncertainty following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, there remain potentially significant headwinds for airports in the world. UK in its bid to lure travelers back.”
The British Airline Pilots Association (Balpa), a UK pilots’ union, also said it welcomed the move.
Balpa Secretary General Martin Chalk said: “The aviation industry has been through the worst crisis it has ever faced, but it will underpin the much needed economic recovery global Britain needs.
“The Balpa pilots hope to take Grant Shapps on their next trip and, in the meantime, they are calling on the Government to publish its recovery plan for the sector urgently.
“We must ensure that we can compete effectively and regain competitive ground lost to European competitors as a result of the UK government’s harsh and damaging approach.”