British Airways pilot banned for refusing to wear COVID mask loses legal fight 

British Airways Boeing 787-10 Dreamliner
Robin Guess /

A British Airways pilot who was banned from flying with the airline because he refused to wear a COVID-19 mask has lost his legal fight against the carrier. 

First officer Peter Burch claimed British Airways discriminated against him and that he was a “sovereign being who has a right to breathe freely”. 

According to the Mail Online, Burch argued that his stance against wearing a mask was the same as a religious belief and he should be protected accordingly.  

However, the Employment Judge Elizabeth Coll concluded that for a belief to be valid under equality laws it cannot infringe on other people’s rights and by not wearing a mask, Burch could affect a person’s right to life by passing COVID onto them.  

At the preliminary hearing in Watford, UK, Burch told the hearing he had “dedicated himself” to his belief.  

However, the judge was unmoved by the argument and raised the fact that Burch admitted his opinion on masks could change in light of new scientific evidence.  

The judge dismissed the claim and in closing remarks said Birch “seems to recognize that his exercising his human rights in relation to not wearing a mask could cause a problem to those who were vulnerable”. 

The judge added: “His belief is therefore in conflict with the fundamental rights of others, such as Article 2, right to life”. 

Burch began working for British Airways in 1996 but after 20 months on furlough, he was unhappy when he returned to work to be told he would need to wear a mask.  

When he refused to do so he was placed on unpaid leave. 

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