With the much anticipated ‘Tasman Travel Bubble’ in the pipeline, travellers to Australia should be aware that pilots want mandatory face masks for all those travelling by air. The commercial pilots organisation in New Zealand wants face masks to be compulsory for passengers, and after a recommendation from the International Air Transport Association, some airlines are now providing passengers with masks, but not Air New Zealand.
New Zealand Air Line Pilots' Association president Andrew Ridling said masks would reduce the need for people to be separated on planes. "It's difficult to achieve such a high degree of social distancing unless the aircraft [loading] is so light it becomes uneconomical to fly the aircraft." He said airlines could give out masks at departure gates, as some American companies are doing.
"I think the idea of getting people to wear masks is all about getting some social understanding that there is no increased risk." He said it would still be safe for passengers with less spacing. People were sitting facing forward, the air was highly filtered, and the air flow in a plane's cabin was vertical, he said.
University of Otago epidemiologist Professor Michael Baker said masks were now recommended in most of the world and should be worn on public transport. He told Morning Report the US Centres for Disease Control and the UK health department were recommending masks for public transport. "It has the huge benefit in that it means you don't have to have any empty seats on buses and planes." Baker said masks would become the norm on planes, and may prove more important than hand washing in controlling the spread of Covid-19.
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