Cathay Pacific now allows passengers in their flat bed business or first class seats to lay down for a good nights sleep, sans mask.
Yes, whereas everyone else on the plane must keep their mask on for the duration of the flight, passengers upfront have been granted a golden new loophole, and one with plenty of controversy.
Is it a sign of old times slowly returning amid positive vaccination and mitigation news, or a risky gamble, perhaps too soon?
Cathay Pacific Drops Mask Requirement While Sleeping
Cathay Pacific now allows first and business class passengers on flights equipped with a flat bed to remove their mask when the seat is fully reclined into a flat bed, aka the sleeping position. Passengers are expected to keep masks on in other settings.
The new directive was unearthed by Executive Traveller via an internal memo to staff, which has since been confirmed.
Qatar Airways was believed to be the first, and for a while, the only airline to allow passengers in its business class cabin, or beloved Qsuites, to use face masks “at their discretion” rather than as standard policy, but the airline states that was never the case, despite confusing releases on the subject.
It confirmed that all passengers, even in business class must keep face masks on for the duration of travel.Qatar Airways provides privacy doors in most business class seats, transforming seats into ‘suites’.
The new Cathay Pacific change is in response to ongoing studies which suggest that in this flat position, high walls between passengers combined with state of the art HEPA filters and greater levels of distancing in business and first class don’t pose additional risk, even without masks worn at all times.
This has been backed up by recent US Department of Defense studies which examined the extent of particle spread and filtration in real planes, on actual flights across a wide variety of variables, and pointed to the success of HEPA systems. GSTP makes no claim as to the validity of any study.
Masks must still be worn when upright on Cathay Pacific, even in first or business class, and there’s no exception for anyone sleeping across a row of seats in economy or premium. Qatar is more lenient with business class discretion. In addition to a face mask, Qatar Airways also makes all economy passengers wear a face shield.
Will Other Airlines Join?
It’s intriguing that Hong Kong based Cathay Pacific is reducing mask mandates. Hong Kong has been one of the strictest cities in fighting off covid-19, and even flight crews face huge restrictions when entering. Travel corridors with Singapore were put on hold over 60 cases, bursting plans for regional travel.
If the airline feels comfortable with the policy, perhaps others will too.
Cathay Pacific is the first Oneworld airline to offer such an exception. All other exemptions from other airlines center around validated medical reasons, rather than choice. Could a British Airways, or American Airlines follow next? Or will we see airlines from other alliances begin to ease mask requirements on board?
It’s a brave new time ahead for airlines, that’s for sure.