Wearing face masks on flights will be one of the last COVID measures to be scrapped globally and could be enforced for years, experts say.
Several coronavirus measures around the world will prevent airlines from traveling individually to allow passengers to travel without cover, sources have told The Times.
Other such travel rules are being relaxed by individual governments, with tests for fully vaccinated arrivals in England will be demolished from next Friday 11 February.
But the paper reports that UK airlines will seek “international consistency” before lifting the rule on masks, and will “act as one” in easing measures.
A senior aviation source said: “Until there is a harmonized lifting of mask mandates on flights by governments around the world, it will be easier for airlines to enforce the rules.”
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Most British airlines follow guidelines from the European Union Aviation Safety Agency and the International Civil Aviation Organization, among others.
The guidelines say masks must be worn during flights, except when eating and drinking.
What do the airlines say?
Virgin Atlantic told Sky News it is following guidelines from international and local aviation regulators and governments and has no plans yet to lift the face mask measure.
“We will continue to provide input to regulators and work together across the industry to see when changes can be made, but until further notice we will require all customers and crew members to continue to wear face masks for the duration of their flights, as well as on airports,” a statement said.
Ryanair’s Chief Financial Officer Neil Sorahan also said there were no plans to change the rules.
He said: “Masks will be something that will stay with us for a while. If that’s the price we have to pay in the coming months, until the summer, it’s a small price.”
Mr Sorahan said the mask rule remains in effect, similar to how rules for passengers removing liquids from hand luggage at security have been enforced over the years.
That measure was introduced in 2006, when police foiled a plot to blow up planes with liquid explosives.
Another source at the airline told The Times: “We will almost certainly maintain the same policy until it is safe to move. For example, the rules in the US are very clear about masks. It would be ridiculous to ask passengers to put them on.” when we enter their airspace.”
And another said that while there was “hope that one day we will have a world without masks… they will be with us for a long time”.
More on the latest COVID restrictions:
What are the rules for face masks in the UK?
How do restrictions compare in the home countries?