Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce has said Australia must “move on” from mandating passengers to wear masks on flights.
Speaking on 2GB radio on Friday, he said Australia was “a little behind the curve” on the rules, which bizarrely means those flying from Sydney to London don’t require face coverings, but those coming the other way do.
“I think every airline would be encouraging the federal government to move on as soon as they can,” Joyce said.
Currently, international passengers are bound by the rules set by the country they are flying into, while domestically, masks are required in the air but not on the ground at airports.
“I’ve gone back to Europe to North America a few times and I’m wearing the mask for 17 hours. It is not very comfortable. And people know that,” said Joyce.
“In the United States and around Europe, the mask mandates have been dropped.
“We’ve had a change of government and we had to wait for the election to change with a new government in place and a new federal transport minister in place. I talked to her about this and we’re hoping to make progress pretty soon.”
Later on Friday, Victoria became the latest state to drop the requirement to wear face coverings at airports, after Queensland became the first earlier in the week.
It came after the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) on Tuesday recommended the government end the rules in airport terminals.
Joyce told 2GB’s Ben Fordham he believed aircraft were the safest environment of any transport in the world.
“You’ve got these HEPA filters on an aircraft that take out 99 per cent of all particles, including COVID-19, you’ve got the air that circulates every six minutes, you’ve got everybody facing in a forward direction.”
Brisbane Airport Corporation’s head of public affairs Stephen Beckett welcomed the decision, stating it was good news “not just for passengers and airport visitors, but importantly for the tens of thousands of employees who work at airports.”
“We’ve received feedback from those working in the terminal that the requirement to wear a mask for a full 8-to-12-hour shift can be quite challenging,” he said.
“This now means that cafe workers at the Brisbane Airport can work mask free, just like those working in an indoor food court just up the road.
“We do hope that other states and territories follow suit, and consistently remove mask mandate across all jurisdictions.”
The AHPPC said on Tuesday that it had “reviewed the current COVID-19 situation in Australia and revised the need for mandated mask-wearing in certain settings”.
“The AHPPC notes that all states and territories have relaxed mask mandates in most settings within the community and considers that it is no longer proportionate to mandate mask use in airport terminals.
“The AHPPC proposes that mask-wearing in airport terminals no longer be mandated from as early as midnight 17 June 2022.”