Travellers will still be required to wear face masks after English legal restrictions ease, UK airports and airlines said in a joint statement today.
Passengers who refuse to wear a mask will be denied boarding for both domestic and international flights.
Children and those with medical reasons preventing them from wearing a mask will continue to be exempt from the rules.
Iata, Airlines UK, the Airport operators Association and the UK Board of Airline Representatives said in a joint statement:
“Airports and airlines will continue to take every measure possible to ensure health is protected, including enhanced cleaning and social distancing where possible. Face masks will remain an essential element of these measures and will be required for both international and domestic flights.
“This reflects the fact that airports and aircraft are by nature areas where social distancing is not always possible. Furthermore, international travel generally retains additional layers of protection, such as pre-departure Covid testing and restrictions on arrivals from ‘Red’ countries to protect public health.
“The need for face masks in air travel reflects the current epidemiological situation in the UK and internationally and will be reviewed as the health situation evolves.”
The aviation bodies added the requirement “will be enforced through denial of boarding” where necessary and that it is “in line with government guidance and international requirements”.
Face masks are still mandated in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The International Civil Aviation Organisation also recommends their use for air travel.
Only England has decided to ditch legal requirements, as prime minister Boris Johnson announced last week that the next step out of lockdown will mean the end of the one-metre plus rule, mandatory face masks and limits on social gatherings.
“We will stick to our plan to lift legal restrictions and to lift social distancing,” he said.
“We recommend and expect people to were a face covering in enclosed spaces where you come into contact you don’t normally meet, such as public transport.”
Chief medical officer Chris Whitty warned that there would be an “exit wave” of Covid cases as the country reopens, but that all dates of lifting restrictions will lead to similar outcomes.
Cases have already sharply increased, mainly due to the spread of the more contagious Delta variant. The Office for National Statistics today said one in 95 people in England tested positive for Covid-19 in the week up to 10 July.
The last time cases were at this level was in February, during the country’s major winter lockdown.
More than 100 scientists and doctors have signed an open letter accusing the UK government of conducting a “dangerous and unethical experiment” with its plan to ditch restrictions on 19 July.
Similarly to airports and airlines, UK supermarkets yesterday said they are urging customers to keep wearing face masks after 19 July.
London mayor Sadiq Khan also said they would remain compulsory on London Tube and bus services, saying he was “not prepared to stand by and put Londoners, and our city’s recovery, at risk”.
Speaking to the Today programme, Khan said that wearing a mask was “the most unselfish thing that you can do” to protect other people.
He also said that it would be “far better” if the same rules were applied across the country.