Australia is getting rid of face masks on flights. Will NZ do the same?

By Siobhan Downes of

Masked passengers on a flight

Masks have been mandatory for everyone over 12 on domestic flights since November 2020.
Photo: 123 RF

New Zealand is now one of the few remaining countries to require face masks on flights – but a move to the green light level could see that rule scrapped.

Australia’s national cabinet has just agreed to remove the mask mandate for passengers on domestic flights from 9 September.

The move came after Singapore Airlines last week announced passengers would no longer be required to wear face masks on flights, unless traveling to a destination where mask-wearing was mandated.

Most US airlines have dropped masking requirements since a federal judge struck down the travel mask mandate in April, while the European Union abolished its mandatory face mask requirement on flights and at airports in May.

In New Zealand, face masks have been mandatory for passengers aged 12 and over on all domestic flights since November 2020.

Face masks are also compulsory on all international flights to New Zealand.

When the Covid-19 Protection Framework, or traffic light system, was introduced in December 2021, face masks on domestic flights were compulsory under all settings – red, orange and green. Under green, flights were the only scenario in which masks were required.

However, that requirement was removed from green when the government made changes to the traffic light system in March.

The updated rules mean that if the government decides to move to the green light setting in two weeks’ time, face masks will no longer be mandatory on flights – though airlines may choose to enforce their own face mask policies.

Masked woman during a flight

Airlines would be able to set their own mask policies.
Photo: 123 RF

Passengers may also choose to continue to wear them. While the aviation industry says the risk of contracting Covid-19 onboard a plane is low because of the way air is filtered, health experts still recommend wearing face masks because these filtration systems can’t be Relied on the whole time – like when boarding and disembarking the plane.

A Harvard University study found the risk of transmission on an aircraft could be reduced to very low levels through a “layered approach”, with face masks considered “the most essential layer”.

On the government’s Unite Against Covid-19 website, the “Life at Green” section says face masks are “useful in poorly ventilated indoor areas and when you are around people you do not know”.

This story was first published on the Stuff website.


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