Qantas’ Latest Mask Rules Make Absolutely Zero Sense

It's not their fault though...

Qantas’ Latest Mask Rules Make Absolutely Zero Sense

Image Credit: Qantas

Qantas is getting rid of mask requirements on flights to the US, UK and Rome, from NSW, Queensland and Western Australia. But when you fly domestically within Australia (or from abroad into Australia) you still have to wear a mask during your flight. This makes zero sense… but I reckon it’s actually a good thing.

I recently flew from London to Sydney. Along the way, a few bemused Brits complained Australia’s mask rules don’t make much sense. Much as it pained me to agree, I had to admit – they had a point. Australia’s mask rules are confusing – especially when you’re coming back from abroad. It’s not Qantas’ fault though – it’s due to differences in Australia’s mask rules and other countries’ mask rules (or the lack thereof).

As of yesterday (according to a leaked Qantas memo, reported by the Sydney Morning Herald), masks are no longer required (you can still wear one if you want though) on non-stop Qantas flights from NSW, Queensland, and Western Australia to the US, UK, and Rome.

You still have to wear a mask though on inbound flights and on all domestic flights (and on outbound international flights from Melbourne). When transiting too (for instance on a stopover in Darwin on a London – Sydney flight), you are still required to wear a mask at the boarding gate. This is confusing when you’ve come from somewhere like Europe, where masks are not mandatory in airports (and are not mandatory on many international flights).

Image Credit: Qantas

The reason for this inconsistency is that Australia has stricter mask rules than many overseas destinations (like the US, the UK and Italy). Despite this causing momentary confusion for passengers like myself, Qantas appears to hope that it will encourage the Australian government to lift the mask mandate onboard aircraft in all settings.

The leaked Qantas memo allegedly said: “The removal of mask mandates for airports and some international flights reinforces that the lifting of mask mandates onboard aircraft in all settings is the appropriate next step, with global studies showing the risk of transmission inside the cabin is very low.”

“The change to in-flight mask requirements on some international flights is an important step in our transition to living with Covid, and we welcome this change.”

Excerpt from the leaked Qantas Memo. Source: SMH

Qantas passengers flying from Melbourne will still have to wear a mask, but Qantas has apparently vowed to get rid of the requirement as soon as possible. This change also comes after the Australian Health Principal Protection Committee (AHPPC) recommended the scrapping of mask mandates in Australia’s airport terminals (a move which NSW has taken on board, with mask mandates in NSW airport terminals having been scrapped on the 17th of June 2022).

Qantas chief customer officer Steph Tully, Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce and Qantas International chief Tino La Spina wearing masks on a 2020 flight. Image Credit: ESCAPE

My take? Though it seems a bit strange to have to wear a mask to fly to Perth but not to fly to London, Los Angeles or Rome, I’d rather be a little bit confused and have the option of not wearing a mask on some flights a little bit sooner, than have Qantas hold back that option just for the sake of consistency. So, though this might sound weird, Qantas’ mask mandates make absolutely zero sense, and for that I applaud them.

As for the Flight Attendants Association of Australia, its federal secretary Teri O’Toole has said that while some cabin crew are welcoming the relaxation of rules, others are concerned that the removal of mask mandates could increase their risk of getting COVID, and are worried about how fast the rule has been scrapped.

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