Australia has become the latest country to ditch its airplane face mask mandate following a meeting of the national cabinet, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese confirmed on Wednesday evening.
Alongside the lifting of face mask rules, political leaders have also agreed to reduce the isolation period for COVID-19 positive cases from seven days down to just five days.
Both changes will come into effect from September 9. From that date, Australia will no longer have any pandemic-era travel restrictions remaining in force. It is a remarkable turnaround given the fact that Australia once had some of the strictest rules in the world.
Qantas had already dropped mask rules on international flights leaving Australia to countries where masks weren’t required by law. However, passengers were required to wear masks on all international flights to Australia, as well as on all domestic flights.
The rules had caused a fair amount of confusion in recent months because face mask mandates in airports had been lifted back in June. But as soon as passengers went to board the aircraft they were required to wear a mask.
Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce said he couldn’t understand why masks were still required on airplanes when the risk of onboard transmission, he claimed, was “very low”.
The airline is set to drop masking rules as soon as it is legally allowed to do so, but Joyce says Qantas “respects and understands” that some passengers will continue to want to wear a mask onboard.
Last week, Singapore surprised some analysts by dropping its own face mask mandate. The German government, however, has resisted calls to ditch airplane masking rules and has instead extended the provision through to April 2023 at the earliest.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.