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Cathay Pacific, Qatar Airline drop mask requirement for first, business class passengers


Cathay Pacific and Qatar Airways, have in a rare controversial move, dropped face mask requirement for passengers in their first class and business class seats.

However, for everyone else on the plane, they must keep their mask on for the duration of the flight.

While Qatar Airways was the first to initiate this move, being the only airline to allow passengers in its business class cabin, or its Qsuites, to use masks at their discretion, rather than as standard policy, Cathay Pacific has now joined in.

The airline in an internal memo to its staff says it will now allow first and business class passengers on flights equipped with a flat bed to remove their mask when the seat is fully reclined into a flat bed, aka the sleeping position. Passengers are expected to keep masks on in other settings.

Masks must still be worn when upright on Cathay Pacific, even in first or business class, and there’s no exception for anyone sleeping across a row of seats in economy or premium.

Qatar Airways hinge their decision of being able to provide privacy doors in most business class seats, transforming seats into ‘suites’. In addition to a face mask, Qatar Airways also makes all economy passengers wear a face shield, creating quite a gulf between rules for cozy passengers up front, and those down the back.

The new Cathay Pacific change is in response to ongoing studies which suggest that in this flat position, high walls between passengers combined with state of the art HEPA filters and greater levels of distancing in business and first class don’t pose additional risk, even without masks worn at all times.

This ongoing study has been backed by recent US Department of Defense studies which examined the extent of particle spread and filtration in real planes, on actual flights across a wide variety of variables, and pointed to the success of HEPA systems. GSTP makes no claim as to the validity of any study.



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