Airline exempts premium passengers from wearing mask when lying flat

An airline has said passengers flying in premium cabins can remove their masks when lying flat for sleep.

Hong Kong-based airline Cathay Pacific is happy that the enclosures in business and first cabins, alongside the greater amount of space in the premium seats, mean that the risk of catching Covid while lying flat is minimal.

Premium fliers will still need to wear masks at all other times, and passengers flying in economy and premium economy are required to be masked up throughout the flight.

The exemption is possible thanks to the aircraft’s filtration system, “capable of filtering 99.9999 percent of dust particles, including virus and bacteria”, reports Executive Traveller.

Thanks to advanced filtration systems, air travel is “relatively safe” when it comes to the spread of coronavirus, according to an expert from the World Health Organisation (WHO).

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David Nabarro, WHO special envoy for Covid-19, said this was because of modern aircrafts’ air filtration systems.

“So the one good thing about aeroplanes is that the ventilation system includes really powerful filters which means that in our view they are relatively safer,” he told BBC News.

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Iata’s fact sheet on Public Health Emergency Preparedness highlights the importance of modern air filters on planes, which “have a similar performance” to those used to keep the air clean in hospital operating rooms and industrial clean rooms.

It says: “Hepa (high-efficiency particulate air) filters are effective at capturing greater than 99.9 per cent of the airborne microbes in the filtered air.”

The modern cabin air system delivers around 50 per cent fresh air and 50 per cent filtered, recirculated air.

In the UK, face coverings became mandatory on public transport in June 2020.

The Independent has contacted Cathay Pacific for comment.

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