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Cathay Pacific Adjusts Face Covering Policy for Premium Cabin

Cathay Pacific Adjusts Face Covering Policy for Premium Cabin
Joe Cortez

Flyers in the forward cabin of Cathay Pacific aircraft are getting a waiver on wearing their face mask in certain situations. The new policy allows for flyers to forego wearing a covering if their seat is reclined in a fully-flat position.

Hong Kong-based carrier Cathay Pacific is creating an exception to their mandatory face covering rule – but you must be seated in the premium cabin to use it. Executive Traveller reports the airline is allowing first class and business class travelers to not wear a face covering if their seat is in the lie-flat position.

Exemption Allows Flyers to Go Coverless If They Are Laying Down

Under the new policy, the airline will allow flyers in the premium cabin to not use a face covering if their seat is fully reclined. The carrier claims that because of the high walls around their first- and business class suites, flyers have more personal space and less exposure to one another. The combination of factors serves as a natural barrier, which potentially reduces the risk of transmitting the novel Coronavirus.

The new policy is a step backwards from their mandatory face covering policy, which started on May 15, 2020, after the COVID-19 pandemic began. In addition to the higher barriers, the airline justified their decision based on their air filtration systems. A spokesperson for the airline commented that the filters are “…capable of filtering 99.9999 percent of dust particles, including virus and bacteria.”

The filtration argument is common among airlines, with many claiming their cabins are safer than most day-to-day activities. The industry has stood behind three studies to back up their arguments: one conducted by the U.S. Department of Defense in conjunction with United Airlines, one by the Harvard University School of Public Health, and one published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

However, researchers have also provided evidence to the contrary as well. A New Zealand research paper determined that without wearing face coverings, several people aboard an Emirates flight may have contracted COVID-19 by sitting in near proximity of an infected person.

Policy Flies in the Face of American Mandates

The exemption is in direct conflict with new mandates handed down by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Under the rules, all passengers aboard any publicly-available carrier – including airlines – must wear a face mask from the time they enter the terminal, to the time they leave their arrival station.

View Comments (17)


  1. Cotumely

    February 18, 2021 at 4:24 am

    Cathay Pacific believe that lying down stops you from spreading Covid-19. Don’t believe I’ll be flying with them during the pandemic.

  2. arcticflier

    February 18, 2021 at 5:06 am

    Combat Covid by getting horizontal.

    New reports suggest the Virus has tremendous difficulty approaching a Vertical Vector.

    Who’d a think it?

  3. rpaverd

    February 18, 2021 at 5:13 am

    Quite possibly Cathay are making a logical and RATIONAL decision in this regard….
    1. Direct airflow coming from a HEPA filtered outlet into a semi- enclosed area (the reclined part of the sleeping cocoon)
    2. Extraction of air from just below the reclined persons head
    3. Directly back into the filtration system.
    and that the first class section is in a suitably socially distanced private suite, is this of risk to either the passenger or to others on the aircraft?

    Note that the New Zealand research paper showed the location of people in fairly close proximity in the economy class cabin, several of whom did not wear masks while sleeping – and looking at their seat locations were almost certainly adjacent to passengers who were infected.

    In addition, we need to be cautious of blind adherence to a the mandate such as the CDC mask requirement. It would appear that several airlines have refused to accept more advanced systems where inbound and outbound breathing is HEPA filtered – FAR safer than even an N95 mask – quoting CDC guidelines.

    Thus it should be important that airlines continue to evaluate and offer options WHERE IT IS SAFE TO DO SO.

  4. jficht

    February 18, 2021 at 5:41 am

    Good for them!

  5. Orange County Commuter

    February 18, 2021 at 10:56 am

    Sorry but you show your true colors don’t expect us to come running back in a few years.

    You decided that the “whiners” were more important than the rest of your passengers… hope you have enough whiners to stay in business.

  6. rstruthe

    February 18, 2021 at 1:48 pm

    This makes sense related to plastic barrier rules and separation rules. In first class you are a few meters plus a barrier away from the nearest person. This is much more separation than at a restaurant table or bar where you are allowed to remove your mask.
    Common sense prevails, but I imagine flying into and out of the us they will need to enforce the US rules.

  7. mixmastermark

    February 18, 2021 at 2:17 pm

    This is absolutely a correct and logical policy.

    I flew Cathay in Business Class HK-SFO last Feb, and despite my best efforts to wear a perfectly-fitting N95 the entire flight, each time I woke up from a nap lying flat, my mask was always nudged off my nose and/or mouth, even trying to sleep perfectly level on my back…every single time. There was no point wearing one, as it always came off anyway.

    So for this reason in addition to the other rational points CX made in the article, mask exemptions while lying down in Business and First classes make perfect sense.


    February 18, 2021 at 3:50 pm

    Finally a decision based on real science and common sense. It’s already known that the chances of transmission while flying are almost zero. I fly in one of these seats on another airline and it made no sense to be wearing a mask while lying down. Social distancing protocol requires six feet of separation and this is easily achieved while lying in one of these seats.

  9. rpaverd

    February 18, 2021 at 4:26 pm

    If I get the opportunity, absolutely yes I will fly Cathay Pacific – unfortunately will not be able to afford first class – but their business class is very goos. I am absolutely astonished that Qatar has not offered a similar option in their QSuites – it as the perfect environment to have a secure safe personal cocoon.

    I suspect that in Qatar Business they do not rigidly enforce the “cover your face after every mouthful of food” approach in business class.

    Also, as far as I am aware, CDC has no way of enforcing any rules on any foreign carrier. Once they are airborne – at least on international flights, the rules of the airline – or country to which it belongs – should take precedence over any country from which they are flying… can you imagine the unhappiness if they were to fly out of a predominantly Muslim country and were therefore banned from serving alcohol?

    I look forward to a safe, RATIONAL, appraoch to minimizing COVID risk in flight… and Cathay Business Class! where I can sleep cofortably and safely…!

  10. MRM

    February 18, 2021 at 4:50 pm



    February 19, 2021 at 4:32 am

    By the way this is my issue with a federally mandated mask policy. It removes the ability for airlines to use common sense when making policies.

  12. arcticflier

    February 19, 2021 at 6:57 am

    I get a good chuckle out of the previous posters who suggest this decision is made on sound science.

    This was a marketing decision and they searched out a scientific study amongst multiple conflicting studies to support their profit motivation.

  13. SaltyGB

    February 19, 2021 at 7:08 am

    I love the debate and the total lack of evidence supporting how COVID is in fact transmitted. I travel extensively and each country has been able to “see” the same evidence yet you will find social distancing requirements at 1.5m, 2m, and 6 ft depending on where you are. Masks and face shields and social distancing enforced in some places as well. To spread COVID you need a viable spreader AND a receiver and everyone that thinks it is the other person’s fault needs to look in the mirror and see who is ultimately responsible…it is YOU, not the government or the airline or the other passenger…simply YOU. If you are concerned for your safety and health, then stay home.

    I contracted COVID, mostly likely at a ski vacation with friends, and some 15 others in the group got it as well. We knew the risks, we were happy to accept them. No blame for anyone else.

  14. 200nites

    February 19, 2021 at 7:34 am

    I applaud this approach. As the months go by, more of the world will approach herd status.

    FWIW: the next step should be allowing fully vaccinated passengers to go mask free (I just had my second shot yesterday so naturally I’m in favor of this).

  15. Rexy52

    February 23, 2021 at 10:33 am

    “We knew the risks, we were happy to accept them. No blame for anyone else.”

    Just out of interest, would you or any of your friends have expected to be treated in an NHS intensive care ward if you had contracted a severe form of the virus? If so, you would probably have displaced someone else in need of non-Covid-related intensive care.

    Also, how do you consider the risk that you may be spreading the virus to other people who have not made a decision to accept the same risks as you?

    This is not meant as an aggressive comment, but the argument that you only have to be comfortable with Covid risks from a personal perspective completely ignores each individual’s response to other members in the society they live in.

  16. Rexy52

    February 23, 2021 at 10:35 am

    BTW, I also meant to add that I think CX’s decision is completely rational, both from a health and a product offering perspective.

  17. dave209

    February 24, 2021 at 1:18 pm

    This is good especially if you have already had the vaccine.

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