A decision by the Federal Court in United States has further clouded
what is already a confusing issue for air travellers: Do I need to wear a
mask at the airport and on the plane?
The answer? Maybe. Maybe not.
A federal judge in Florida ruled that a mandate requiring airline
passengers to wear masks oversteps the powers of the US Centres for
Disease Control and Prevention.
As a result, Delta, American Air Lines, and United made face mask-wearing optional on their flights.
All well and good, but if I passengers jumps off Delta and onto a
non-US airline travelling to Asia or Australia, he will almost certainly
need a mask before being allowed to board.
In Australia, the rules for domestic airline travel requiring face
masks both in airports and on commercial airlines have been in effect
since 8 January 2021.
Pretty simple, yet states or territories can apply other requirements for travel.
The questions remain: What is the risk of catching Covid-19 on a plane? And does it really matter where on the plane you sit?
Professor Thea van de Mortel, deputy head at the School of Nursing
and Midwifery at Griffith University in Queensland, has been looking at
passenger safety in the cabin of an aircraft.
Among her findings published in The Conversation,
transmission risk appears higher in business class. This is possibly
because of more interruptions to mask wearing due to greater service of
food and drinks.
Most transmission occurs within two to three rows of
an infected person. Don’t be afraid to ask to move seats if someone
next to you is coughing a lot.
Avoid sitting close to the toilets as passengers will hang about in
the aisles waiting to use them, particularly on long flights.
During long-haul flights passengers are also more likely to recline
their seats. This reduces the protection upright seats provide in
reducing air movement between rows.
The risk also increases when passengers take off their masks during
food service. Avoid eating or drinking on short flights to avoid this.
Alternatively bring a snack to eat before food service begins, or eat
after those around you.