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COVID-19: Masks off for Australian domestic airlines from tomorrow Friday 9 September

COVID-19: Masks off for Australian domestic airlines from tomorrow Friday 9 September

As foreshadowed earlier, Friday, September 9 is the day you can if you want no longer wear a mask on Qantas, Rex or Virgin Australia on domestic flights. Mask wearing is no longer mandated, but still advised, and rest assured, I will be wearing mine for the duration of the flight on my hop to Melbourne next week!

Australian National Cabinet, that’s the Prime Minister, State Premiers and two territories Chief Ministers agreed last week to remove the mask mandate first introduced in early 2021. Australian airlines have been largely supportive of mask-wearing on planes, even before the mandate was imposed.

a group of people in an airport
Wellington Airport Baggage Claim

Airport optional

Masks are now also optional in Airports, although I and most health experts would encourage you to still wear them. Remember you are coming into contact with hundreds of people in a largely enclosed environment, so a mask is a good idea to protect yourself not only from COVID-19 but from other airborne viruses, like colds and flu.

International travel – with or without a mask?

This now depends on where you are going. If you are heading off to a country that requires mask-wearing, then Qantas and other airlines are likely to want you to wear a mask. If the destination country doesn’t require it, then it is beginning to be more likely – depending on the airline concerned – that you won’t need to wear a mask.

Should you still wear a mask?

The scientific evidence is in favour of you wearing a mask. It reduces your risk and the risk of others becoming infected with COVID. Remember that you are locked in a metal or carbon fibre tube for 3 to 24 hours, sharing the same environment with a few hundred people you have never met before. Despite frequent refreshing of the cabin with fresh air and the use of HEPA filters, there is still a risk that fortunately can be reduced by factors of around 50% by wearing a mask.

a group of people in a line
Masked passengers, Melbourne Airport

2PAXfly Takeout

This is another timely reminder to wear your seatbelt when seated. Holding you close to your seat will protect you from the sort of injuries sustained on this flight, when unsecured passengers flew to the ceiling of the aircraft, and then came crashing down once the ‘drop’ ceased.

The hope will be that this is an anomaly – a ‘freak accident’ in casual parlance. If it is a systemic error either mechanical or electronic, then this is a larger concern for the airlines that fly Boeing Dreamliner 787 aircraft. Let’s hope it isn’t. If it is, it will pile on the woes to Boeing’s existing stack.

I don’t get the anti-mask brigade. It’s a simple act that benefits you and your fellow passengers. What’s the problem? Sure it’s annoying, but so is not having enough leg room, or having to wait for other rows to get their meal before you do. It’s not like you are running a marathon, and the mask is impeding your breathing, is it?

Basically, you are comatose in a chair for a bunch of hours, being presented with food and drink, for which you can remove your mask.

If not for yourself, do it for others. You know ‘love thy neighbour’ applies to other passengers too.

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