Yesterday Hong Kong dropped its longstanding mask mandate, one of the strictest that’s been in place around the world, which required people to wear a face covering in any public spaces, indoors or outdoors, including on public transport, unless in a park or while conducting strenuous physical activity, right up until 28th February 2023.
While face masks had already become optional on flights to and from Hong Kong in 2022, flag carrier Cathay Pacific maintained the SAR Government’s ‘status quo’, by continuing to require masks on board all its flights, in a similar stance taken by carriers like Japan Airlines and Starlux, even though those countries also impose no legal in-flight mask mandate.
Now there’s good news if you have a Cathay Pacific flight coming up, or are planning to book one.
Cathay Pacific relaxes its mask mandate
From 1st March 2023, Cathay Pacific passengers, crew and ground staff are no longer obliged to wear a face mask on board the carrier’s flights, or in the airline’s lounges and airport terminals.
The airline also says “if you’re feeling unwell before your journey with us, we encourage you to postpone travel for your safety and the safety of others”.
Cathay Pacific could have maintained mask-wearing on its flights if it wished, so it’s great that the carrier has chosen not to do so and has now removed this annoying restriction in favour of a mask-optional policy, for both passengers and crew.
Many of our readers redeem Cathay Pacific flights using Oneworld frequent flyer currencies like Asia Miles, Avios and Alaska Miles, and these journeys can be long ones, including trips to and from the USA.
If you were put off using Cathay Pacific for this reason, there’s now a good reason to check again and reconsider.
National regulations on in-flight mask wearing are still messy. China and South Korea, for example, mandate this requirement, while Japan only “recommends” it, leading some airlines to require face coverings on Japan flights, like Finnair and British Airways, while others do not, like Singapore Airlines and Lufthansa.
We have asked Cathay Pacific what its policy is on services to and from countries still requiring in-flight mask-wearing, like China, South Korea and Vietnam, and we’re awaiting a response at the time of writing.
Update: Cathay Pacific has confirmed to us that its new mask-optional policy will apply to all its flights, regardless of the destination, including services to China, South Korea and Vietnam.
What about Singapore Airlines?
Singapore Airlines removed its mask mandate back in August 2022, but such was the slow pace of national relaxations in other countries on the airline’s network that less than half the carrier’s flights initially benefitted.
Thankfully that’s no longer such a significant issue, with only SIA flights to and from Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Myanmar, Nepal, the Philippines, South Korea and Vietnam requiring masks to be worn.
Last month Spain became the final country in Europe to drop its mask-wearing mandate on flights and public transport, around nine months after most European countries had already done so, if they ever really imposed one in the first place!
Cathay Pacific passengers are no longer obliged to wear a mask on any other carrier’s flights or in its lounges, following a removal of the national mask mandate in Hong Kong, even though mask-wearing on flights wasn’t specifically part of the regulations.
It’s also great that the airline’s crew will be able to choose whether to wear a mask or not.
We’ve yet to receive word on whether Cathay will have a separate policy on services to destinations like South Korea, which still mandate mask-wearing on inbound and outbound flights, but presumably there will still be some requirements on these routes. (Update: No destinations are excluded, all Cathay Pacific flights are now mask-optional)
Overall though, this is great news for our readers redeeming Cathay Pacific trips, whether to Hong Kong or much further afield on the Oneworld carrier’s network.
(Cover Photo: Cathay Pacific)