After a federal judge struck down the United States mask mandate for planes, trains, buses and other public transportation on Monday, several European airlines made mask-wearing optional for passengers on their trans-Atlantic flights.
The rules in Europe were already shifting, and a number of European countries were well ahead of the United States in easing coronavirus travel restrictions, including mask mandates and pre-departure testing for air travel. Many European airlines have been requiring passengers and crew members to wear face coverings only on flights to countries that require them.
Britain dropped all its remaining coronavirus travel restrictions last month, and British Airways and Virgin Atlantic were among the first carriers to make mask-wearing optional, unless the destination required masks. Both airlines updated their mask policies on Tuesday to make masks optional on flights to U.S. destinations.
“We encourage everyone to be respectful of fellow passengers’ mask preferences, and across our network, we continue to adhere to all regulatory requirements, recognizing that mask requirements differ by market,” Virgin Atlantic said in a statement on Tuesday.
Other European airlines, like Air France and Lufthansa, said they would continue to enforce mask mandates on all their routes, in line with French and German coronavirus regulations. The Dutch airline KLM stopped enforcing mask mandates last month, but said it “strongly recommends” that passengers wear them, in line with guidance from the European Union Aviation Safety Agency.