US face mask rules on flights dropped for Brits earlier than planned

posted on 19th April 2022 by Eddie Saunders
US face mask rules on flights dropped for Brits earlier than planned

By Julie Delahaye,

Brits heading on USA holidays will no longer be required to wear face masks on flights, in airports and when using public transport, after the country did a U-turn on its face mask mandate.

Previously, US face mask rules meant that coverings were required on public transport and transportation hubs (including airports and planes), with the mandate originally extended by authorities until May 3.

However, a federal judge in Florida has ruled the mandate to be unlawful, prompting the end of the policy.

This means that coverings will now be optional, prompting a number of airlines included United Airlines to update their face mask policies.

Meanwhile, the US Transportation Security Administration (TSA) released a statement confirming the lifting of the rule which said: “Due to today’s court ruling, effective immediately, TSA will no longer enforce its Security Directives and Emergency Amendment requiring mask use on public transportation and transportation hubs.

“TSA will also rescind the new Security Directives that were scheduled to take effect tomorrow. CDC continues to recommend that people wear masks in indoor public transportation settings at this time.”

Major carriers such as American Airlines and United Airlines have since confirmed that they will be dropping mandatory face masks on their flights, making them optional for both passengers and airline staff.

Under the new rules, face masks will also no longer be mandatory on select international flights, depending on the arrival country’s mask requirements.

With face masks no longer mandatory on flights to England, Wales and Northern Ireland, it means that the majority of Brits will no longer be required to wear masks when returning to the UK. (Scotland still requires face masks to be worn in airports and on flights).

In response to the news, a spokesperson for Virgin Atlantic said: ““Following the ruling of a United States district court judge on Monday 18 April, the Biden administration has announced that the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) will no longer enforce the federal mandate requiring masks onboard aircraft.

“Effective immediately, masks will be a personal choice for our customers and people travelling in either direction between the UK and the United States. This aligns with our existing mask policy on routes where international regulations around mask-wearing do not apply, such as between the UK and the Caribbean.

“We encourage everyone to be respectful of fellow passengers’ mask preferences and across our network, we continue to adhere to all regulatory requirements, recognising that mask requirements differ by market.”

If you are planning a trip to the USA, it’s worth noting that other entry requirements are in place.

Currently, only fully vaccinated Brits can visit the US for holidays; if you’re unvaccinated, you’ll need an essential reason for travel.

As well as usual visa requirements – you need an ESTA to enter or transit the USA as a visitor – there are also Covid rules.

All travellers are required to show a negative COVID-19 test result taken no more than one day before travel, although children aged two and under are exempt.

Unvaccinated children aged 17 and under can still enter the US provided they meet the Covid test requirement.

  • Travel restrictions can change quickly due to the nature of the pandemic. Always check the Foreign Office’s latest travel advice for a destination before booking or going on a trip.