Cathay Pacific First Class and Cathay Pacific Business Class Passengers are Exempt from Wearing Face Masks while lying down on their fully reclined flat bed seats, per an internal memo circulated to crew on Friday, February 5, 2021.
In a statement to The Standard, a Cathay Pacific representative advised that “Seats in first and business class are more spacious with partitions, and passengers are exempted when lying flat for sleep,” and noted that the aircraft's HEPA filters are able to filter out 99.9999% of particles, including virus and bacteria.
That said, some Cathay Pacific flight attendants have been critical, noting that other passengers may complain, and that there can be an increased risk of viral spread anytime masks are removed.
We agree. While some passengers may prefer to fly Cathay Pacific First Class or Business Class knowing that they don't have to keep a face mask on when resting or sleeping, this rule would prompt us to advise our Award Booking clients NOT to book Cathay Pacific First Class or Business Class while this rule is in effect, since each time a passenger's mask is removed there is a greater risk of infecting others, due to the aerosolized way COVID-19 can be transmitted.
This is also why we wouldn't recommend Qatar QSuites Business Class, since passengers don't have to wear a face mask in QSuites either, even though Qatar Economy passengers do have to wear both a face mask and a face shield whenever they're not eating or drinking.
In fact, the Achilles heel of any long flight that otherwise mandates face masks is eating and drinking, when masks must be taken off. It's likely that this played a role in how COVID-19 was spread during an Emirates flight that originated in Dubai, had a stop in Kuala Lumpur, then continued on to Auckland, New Zealand. During the 14-day mandatory quarantine, 7 passengers tested positive for COVID-19 even though pre-departure testing was negative for 5 of the 7 passengers. The 7 passengers were seated within 4 rows of each other during the 18 hours between Dubai and Auckland. Genomic testing revealed that all positive tests were genetically identical, apart from one mutation in one of the passengers. While it's possible that the 30 minutes that the HEPA filter system was inoperable during the 2 hour stop in Kuala Lumpur was responsible for the spread, since five of the seven passengers reported in-flight face mask and glove use, at least as likely a culprit during the 18 hour journey were times when the passengers were eating or drinking, for which they had to remove their mask.
Frankly, it's concerning to us that Cathay Pacific would expand the window of times when First Class and Business Class passengers can have their masks off, since those are times when other passengers seated nearby may not want to have their own mask off to eat or drink anything.
What do you think of Cathay Pacific's current exemption of First Class and Business Class passengers from face mask use, when they're lying down?
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