On Monday 19th July, Covid restrictions in England come to an end and the wearing of masks is no longer a legal requirement. However, you will still be expected to wear a mask in airports and on a flight unless you have a valid medical exemption. What are your rights if you decide not to do so?
When you purchase your ticket, you are agreeing to abide by the conditions of carriage. Not adhering to those conditions is a breach of contract in consumer law. Airlines can and do ban passengers from future travel for breach of carriage conditions.
At the risk of pointing out the obvious, when you board an aircraft registered in the UK you are travelling under UK Law. However what’s lesser known is that you are also governed by statutory legislation laid down in the ANO (Air Navigation Order). This document is written into UK law and therefore enforceable by the authorities.
In layman’s terms, this means that on board an aircraft you are under the command and legal responsibility of the Captain. What many passengers don’t realise is that not adhering to the command/instruction of the Captain is therefore breaking the law and you can and, passengers have been, arrested for it.
Aircraft have been diverted for disruptive passengers, the passenger arrested, charged and the airline has pursued the passenger for the diversion costs. This is worth remembering should you choose not to follow the instructions of the crew. It’s also worth noting that the Captain does delegate and hand down legal authority to the cabin crew so you can’t wriggle out of compliance simply because the command was issued by the cabin crew.
By paying for a ticket and boarding an aircraft you are agreeing to the airline’s conditions of travel. If you decide not to wear a mask and subsequently cause a disruption on board due to your behaviour then you may find yourself not only in breach of your contract with the airline but also in breach of UK law.
If the Captain consequently decides you’re causing disruption such that in his/her opinion your endangering the safety of either yourself and/or other passengers/crew then you can be legally arrested on landing and charged with a breach of the ANO.
In extreme cases passengers who cause severe disruption can be legally restrained in flight and left restrained for the remainder of the flight. This means you won’t be released until met by the police on landing and yes, it would include toilet breaks.
With the above in mind, please be mindful and respectful on your next flight no matter what your views are or how stressful the whole travel experience is. Please abide by the conditions of carriage, act responsibly and remember that no one is there to spoil your experience in enforcing rules. The crew understand your frustrations, are just doing their job and do not deserve any kind of abuse for doing so. Customer Service is a two way street.