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Singapore Airlines scraps mask mandate on selected routes

You're no longer be obliged to wear a mask when flying on several Singapore Airlines routes, with around 52% of flights now mask-optional.

Update: 16th September 2022
Brunei has removed its mask mandate for international air travellers from 16th September 2022.

See the latest list here or the table below for up-to-date details.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Singapore Airlines has strictly enforced mask wearing for passengers aged six and above on its flights since mid-2020, except when eating or drinking, in accordance with prevailing regulations in the city-state.

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In welcome, it has been confirmed that SIA will now become the first Asian airline to join the likes of British Airways, Qantas, United and KLM, by removing this largely unpopular restriction on many of its services.

However, mask-wearing will still be mandatory when flying on almost half of Singapore Airlines flights, because they operate to or from countries still requiring the use of masks on board, including Canada, South Korea and Malaysia.

Half of SIA flights still require mask wearing. (Photo: Singapore Airlines)

While this exemption from mask freedom includes most South East Asian countries, perhaps most notably mandatory masking does not apply on flights to and from Thailand, as you’ll see in the full list below.

What’s changing?

The new policy, which took effect from 29th August 2022, comes about thanks to a general relaxation of mask restrictions by the Singapore Government, which no longer requires face coverings to be worn indoors from the same date, except on public transport and in medical settings.

“With effect from 29 August 2022, customers are not required to wear face masks on board flights, unless they are travelling to or from destinations that require a face mask.”

Singapore Airlines

Of course it’s important not to confuse a removal of the mask requirement with your own personal choice to wear a mask on board if you want to, which is certainly not being removed as a result of this policy shift.

“Customers who wish to wear a face mask on board may continue to do so.”

Singapore Airlines

Summary of new requirements

Here’s a summary of mask-wearing requirements on the Singapore Airlines network, with the following icons used to identify the latest policy.

Masks required

Masks optional

Singapore Airlines Flights
to/from Singapore
(updated 16 Sep 2022)

Country Mask Requirement

Flying from Singapore

Flying to Singapore
Europe    
Denmark
France
Germany
Italy
Spain
Netherlands
Switzerland
UK
North America    
Canada
USA*
North Asia    
China
Hong Kong
Japan
South Korea
Taiwan
South East Asia    
Brunei Since 16 Sep Since 16 Sep
Cambodia
Indonesia Since 1 Sep
Malaysia
Myanmar
Philippines
Thailand
Vietnam
South West Pacific    
Australia Since 9 Sep
New Zealand Since 13 Sep
West Asia & Africa    
Bangladesh
India
Maldives
Nepal
South Africa
Sri Lanka
Turkey
UAE

* Except SQ25/26, which requires masks
Source: Singapore Airlines, 16th September 2022

Europe and North America are largely mask-mandate-free, but closer to home in South East Asia it’s only Brunei and Thailand that don’t have this requirement (though that will be music to the ears of many Bangkok and Phuket regulars!).

Thailand is already mask-optional, and SIA flights to and from the country also follow this principle. (Photo: Shutterstock)

In some cases, like for Indonesia, masks must be worn when flying to those countries, but not on the way back to Singapore.

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However, the world’s longest non-stop passenger flights between Singapore and New York will be exempt in both directions – good news for those taking the mammoth 19-hour journey!

Singapore Airlines
“Fifth freedom” routes

Route Mask Requirement
Frankfurt – New York
SQ25
New York – Frankfurt
SQ26
Manchester – Houston
SQ52
Houston – Manchester
SQ51
Milan – Barcelona
SQ378
Barcelona – Milan
SQ377
Tokyo – Los Angeles
SQ12
Los Angeles – Tokyo
SQ11

In Europe, only flights to and from Germany or Spain still require masks to be worn, which unfortunately means SQ26/25 New York services remain under the mandate, because they transit through Frankfurt in both directions.

Similarly, passengers on SQ378/377 between Milan and Barcelona also face compulsory mask-wearing instructions, but only on these intra-Europe sections of the journey, not on the longer legs to and from Singapore (which count as “to/from Italy” flights).

On SIA’s Singapore – Frankfurt – New York flights, masks are still be required on all sectors, thanks to Germany’s strict requirements. (Photo: Mike Fuchslocher / Shutterstock)

Germany is planning to scrap its mask mandate on aircraft flying to and from the country. No date for this move has been confirmed at the time of writing, though the rule is expected to be dropped when the current mandate expires on 23rd September 2022.

Confused as to which mask restrictions will apply to your flight?

Don’t worry – Singapore Airlines will be sure to make you aware before boarding.

“An announcement will also be made at the gate before your Singapore Airlines flight to remind you if a face mask is required.”

Singapore Airlines

Do be sure to check SIA’s updated mask requirements by destination country here for the latest reference.

How many SIA flights benefit?

Unfortunately – just over half is the answer.

We looked at SIA’s schedule for the week of 10th-16th October 2022, and found that out of 1,586 passenger flights planned by the airline only 826 (52.1%) would have no mask wearing requirement.

That leaves 47.9% of the carrier’s services still mandating that all those on board aged six and above must wear a mask, except when eating or drinking.

That said, this is an improvement since the mask-wearing mandate in Singapore first came to an end, when around 60% of SIA flights still required a face covering to be worn.

Singapore Airlines can’t change the requirements of foreign countries, meaning around 1 in 2 passenger flights still have a mandatory mask-wearing policy. (Photo: Shutterstock)

Remember that if you’re a transit passenger with Singapore Airlines, you may face a different mask requirement across the two stages of your journey.

For example a traveller flying from London to Manila via Singapore is not required to wear a mask on the first leg (LHR-SIN), but will be required to don one for the second leg (SIN-MNL).

Changi Airport has dropped its mask mandate

Mask wearing at Singapore Changi Airport has also become optional since 29th August 2022, though if like us you’ve passed through the transit area in early August, you’d have be mistaken for thinking this already applied anyway, with many passengers simply not observing the rule!

Changi Airport became mask-optional from 29th August. (Photo: Changi Airport Group)

The good news is as part of this policy you’re now free from mandatory mask-wearing in the terminal, including in the KrisFlyer lounges, even if the flight you are boarding still falls under a “mask-up” edict, due to its routing.

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In common with SIA, Changi Airport is still encouraging those who wish to wear a mask to continue to do so.

What about other carriers?

Airlines flying in and out of Changi Airport that have removed mandatory mask-wearing when travelling to or from countries that don’t require it have followed SIA’s lead, and also removed the edict from their Singapore services.

This includes KLM, Swiss, British Airways and Qantas on all flights to and from Changi.

Remember that some airlines have not relaxed their onboard mask requirements at the moment, including for example Japan Airlines and ANA, despite Japan itself not imposing a blanket requirement on inbound or outbound international passengers.

Airlines can still maintain requirements over and above those of their home countries if they wish, and you must abide by those if you choose to travel with those particular carriers, even to and from Singapore.

You won’t go mask-free on JAL flights between Singapore and Japan, because JAL’s own policy overrides that of national governments. (Photo: Masahiro Takagi)

Some airports in mask-optional countries still require masks

In a slightly confusing stance, some countries still enforce mask-wearing at their airports, even though they don’t necessarily require passengers to wear them on flights to or from their country.

If you’re heading to the following countries, you’ll find this stricter requirement applies straight after you disembark, despite not having been in force during the flight itself:

  • Japan
  • Taiwan

Similarly when departing these countries for Singapore it’s “masks on” in the terminal, but “masks optional” once you’re on the plane.

Crew are still be required to wear masks

If you’re looking forward to boarding your Singapore Airlines flight and seeing the beaming smile of the cabin crew once again, do bear in mind that the relaxation of mask-wearing requirements for passengers does not extend to crew members on these mask-optional flights.

We understand that Singapore Airlines cabin crew are still required to wear masks on board all services, but can choose whether to wear them or not in the terminal at mask-optional airports, like Changi.

Singapore Airlines crew are still be required to wear masks on all flights as part of company policy. (Photo: Vancouver Airport)

Summary

In line with new government relaxations, Singapore Airlines removed its mandatory mask-wearing policy on board flights from 29th August 2022.

However, this does not change the requirements of foreign countries for international air passengers to wear masks on flights, just as Singapore has been mandating the same to them until now, regardless of their own national policy.

As a result, only 4 in 10 SIA flights pushed back on the first day of the relaxation without mask requirements for passengers, meaning the majority of travellers didn’t benefit initially.

Thankfully with progressive relaxations since then, around 52% of SIA flights are now mask-optional.

In general, with rules changing regularly and various policies in force around the world, we’d strongly recommend travelling with a mask or two in your hand luggage, even when you don’t expect to need one for the flight itself.

Will you continue to wear a mask on board Singapore Airlines flights, when flying on mask-optional routes? Let us know in the comments section below.

(Cover Photo: Singapore Airlines)

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6 comments

  1. Thank you for this comprehensive update. One note on Germany — it is highly likely the country will require pax to wear FFP2 inflight as of October 1st till April 23. Please keep a look out and would recommend you provide a note in your table to highlight the potentially tightened mask restrictions as this would be different to other countries, like CA which are happy with surgical masks inflight. The law is currently being discussed in DE and will be approved at some point in September with a high likelihood of it passing in full. Worth noting due to the popularity of SQ25/26.

    1. Going by current German letter of the law, no. All flights to and from Germany require masks as per German legislation which is about to be tightened as of October 1st, requiring you to wear FFP2.