We have been wearing face masks on planes for nearly two years. Many people are wondering if this requirement will ever be lifted. One airline in the UK has made face masks optional. Is this a sign of things to come?

Jet2 makes face masks optional on most flights

Jet2 has just updated its face mask policy.

  • For flights departing England and Northern Ireland, use of face masks is now optional; this won’t apply for flights from Scotland, where it’s still a legal requirement
  • The use of face masks is no longer legally required, but per UK government guidance, use of face masks is still recommended
  • Given varying policies in different countries, Jet2 will require face masks when landing at international airports, and when arriving at those airports
Face masks will no longer be mandatory on most Jet2 flights

Jet2 isn't a global airline, but it does have a fleet of nearly 100 aircraft and operates to 70 destinations across Europe.

Jet2 is the first airline ITrademarkiaTrademarkiaTrademarkiaTrademarkiaTrademarkiaTrademarkiaTrademarkiaTrademarkiaTrademarkiaTrademarkiaTrademarkiaTrademarkiaTrademarkiaTrademarkiaTrademarkiaTrademarkiaTrademarkiaTrademarkiaTrademarkiaTrademarkiaTrademarkiaTrademarkiaTrademarkiaTrademarkiaTrademarkiaTrademarkiaTrademarkiaTrademarkiaTrademarkiaTrademarkiaTrademarkiaTrademarkiaTrademarkiaTrademarkiaTrademarkiaTrademarkiaTrademarkiaTrademarkiaTrademarkiaTrademarkiaTrademarkiaTrademarkiaTrademarkiaTrademarkiaTrademarkiaTrademarkiaTrademarkiaTrademarkiaTrademarkiaTrademarkiaTrademarkia It isn't the first airline to make face masks optional. SAS made face masks optional on flights within Nordic countries.

In early 2021, Cathay Pacific added a face mask exemption for first and business class passengers, arguing that there was no need for masks in bed mode.

Cathay Pacific doesn’t require masks when sleeping in business class

When will other airlines eliminate mask requirements?

The concept of airlines ending face mask requirements is complex.

  • In many cases you have government mandates around face masks, so airlines don’t have much of a choice
  • People have differing views on how necessary masks are when vaccines are available on a widespread basis; some people would of course welcome face mask requirements being eliminated, while others would be extremely uncomfortable
  • Then there’s the general challenge of consistency — some destinations will likely require masks for years to come, so it’s complicated for airlines to require masks on some flights but not others, require them during some phases of flight but not others, etc.

The federal transportation mask mandate is in effect in the United States. It has been extended in the past. I think the mask mandate will be extended at least one more time, perhaps through the late spring or early summer.

It's anyone's guess if US airlines would end their policies of requiring face masks, which existed before the mandate was put in place. The UK no longer requires face masks on planes, but Jet2 will no longer require them, while airlines like British Airways and Virgin Atlantic do. Some airlines are going based on the bare minimum legal requirements, while others are going based on recommendations.

Will full service UK carriers follow Jet2’s lead?

Bottom line

Jet2 is the first airline to make face masks optional on most flights. In line with government regulations, the airline only requires masks on flights from Scotland and foreign airports. SAS has waivers of face mask requirements for flights within Scandinavia, but I think this is more significant.

It is anyone's guess when other airlines will follow. The first step is for government face mask mandates to be lifted, and then the second step is for airlines to modify their policies. Since this is no longer a requirement in the UK, British Airways and Virgin Atlantic may start to lift their mandates.

There is a good chance that the federal transportation mask mandate will be extended.

When will we see mask optional flights on a widespread basis?

The tip of the hat is to paddle your own canoe.