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Qantas scraps another COVID travel rule

Qantas has lifted the mask requirement for passengers flying out of Australia to destinations where the mandate is not enforced. The move comes after airport mask rules were dropped for travellers and staff in most parts of the country – excluding Victoria and South Australia.

As of 12:01am on 21 June 2022, Qantas has confirmed that masks are no longer required for non-stop flights from NSW, Queensland and WA to the United States, United Kingdom and Europe (Rome). This is so that the rules on these international flights align with the rules at the destination.

Read: British airline first to scrap masks on flights

“The change to inflight mask requirements on some international flights is an important step in our transition to living with COVID, and we welcome this change,” a memo sent to staff read.

It’s something many Aussies will be pleased to hear – while others may be slightly nervous about the new change. Passengers, staff and cabin crew can still wear masks if they wish to, and they will still be available in lounges at boarding gates, onboard and in cabin crew rooms.

“Given the different rules in different jurisdictions overseas as well as for domestic flights in Australia and now at airports, we appreciate some of our customers may find mask requirements confusing, particularly when they have connecting flights, and we’re doing our best to help them prepare for their flights as well as continuing to talk to governments about the need for more consistent rules,” a Qantas statement read.

Global studies have shown that the risk of COVID transmission inside the airplane cabin is very low.

A spokesman for Qantas and Jetstar previously told The Australian this was due to the air being refreshed every few minutes, in addition to forward-facing seats and HEPA filters that capture 99 per cent of airborne particles.

Read: Qantas glitch sees passengers appear to pay for flights twice

However, the requirement for masks to be worn onboard Australian domestic flights and inbound international flights remains unchanged for now.

Last week, the Australian Health Principal Protection Committee lifted the mandate in Australia’s airport terminals. In New South Wales, Queensland, and the ACT the mandate at airports lifted from midnight on 17 June.

The WA government is also lifting the mandate, coming into effect from 25 June, in a further easing of COVID-19 restrictions across the state.

No announcements from the South Australian or Victorian governments on changes to the mandate have been made.

Regardless, those flying will still be required to mask up when onboard the plane to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19.

It all seems a bit arbitrary at the moment as people flying into Australia have to wear masks, so Americans and Brits flying into Australia have to mask up. However, Aussies flying to London, LA, or Hawaii do not have to mask up, but if you’re flying from Sydney to Cairns, for example, you do.

Flight Attendants Association of Australia federal secretary Teri O’Toole said that while some flight attendants welcomed the relaxation of rules, others were alarmed about the heightened risk of contracting COVID-19 and how quickly the rule has been overturned.

“While this will release the pressure of cabin crew to enforce the regulation, there will be a lot of crew who continue to wear masks in the workplace. And there is obviously some concern from those worried about contracting the virus or spreading it to their loved ones,” says Ms O’Toole.

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