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New Zealand follows Australia to scrap masks on overseas flights

written by Adam Thorn | September 12, 2022

Qantas facemasks new
This image, released by Qantas, shows passengers onboard wearing face masks (Qantas)

New Zealand has followed Australia in removing the mandate for passengers to wear masks on inbound international flights.

The country’s flag carrier confirmed it would follow the decision, which will come into effect from Tuesday, 13 September. It comes after Australia quietly dropped its own international mask rules last week.

Currently, international passengers are bound by the rules set by the country they are flying into. It previously meant those flying from Sydney to London weren’t mandated to wear a face covering, but passengers coming the other way did.

Masks are also not required at airports, but are required to be worn on public transport in most Australian states.

Air New Zealand’s chief customer officer Leanne Geraghty said, “Masks have played an important part in keeping customers, crew and communities safe during the COVID-19 pandemic, but it’s time to say farewell.

“While some customers and employees will welcome this news, it doesn’t mean masks are disappearing forever. We really encourage customers to continue to do what makes them comfortable, which is the same message we’re sharing with our employees.

“I want to make a special call out to our frontline staff who have smiled behind masks during a difficult period, often wearing masks for hours on end. They’ve helped keep customers and our communities safe, and we’re looking forward to seeing their smiling faces again.”

Meanwhile, Australian Federal Health Minister Mark Butler said, “The requirement to wear masks on international flights to Australia was first implemented in January 2021 to reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19 on board flights.


“It has been removed on the advice of the Chief Medical Officer that it is no longer proportionate in the current context.

“I encourage everyone travelling overseas to be mindful of the continuing risk of COVID-19 and to take personal precautions to stop the spread and stay safe.”

The double rule change came after Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce said in June that Australia must “move on” from mandating passengers to wear masks on flights.

Joyce argued that the country was “a little behind the curve” on the rules, particularly on international flights.

“I’ve gone back to Europe [and] 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.”

Qantas also earlier dropped its requirement that passengers on international flights should be vaccinated against COVID-19, following a federal government decision.

The outgoing federal rule led to a diplomatic incident earlier this year when tennis player Novak Djokovic was allowed into the country to play in the Australian Open before being effectively deported a week later.

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