Qatar Airways was the first carrier to allow business class passengers to take off their masks while sleeping. Qatar’s QSuites have doors separating passengrs, though of course these aren’t true ‘rooms’ in that walls do not go to the cabin ceiling.
Cathay Pacific then exempted business class and first class passengers from wearing masks while laying down in bed mode also.
It seems to me that this take is typical,
These new premium cabin mask exemptions are honestly, hilarious. Cathay Pacific’s logic here is essentially, as long as you lie at a 180° angle, you can’t get COVID.
I don’t think it’s hilarious and Cathay’s position isn’t that ‘Covid can’t spread lying down.’
- There actually is some science behind this. There are barriers on either side of a passenger laying down in bed mode. There haven’t been documented cases of virus spread between rooms or through walls that I can find. That’s not a perfect analogy, but combined with downward cabin airflow this should be prophylactic.
- And the issue isn’t whether you can ‘get’ Covid-19, the mask mandate is relevant to whether you can spread it. It does seem you’d be much less likely to spread it while low to the ground in bed mode, and asleep with reduced respiratory emissions.
Covid-19 does spread on planes but it’s rare. Low quality masks passengers wear that meet the minimum standard required probably don’t contribute much to overall safety.
Sleeping without a mask on, with distance and barriers between passengers and with downward air flow, frequent air exchange, and good air filtration is probably just fine. It’s not 100% protection, but masking doesn’t make for 100% protection either.
The primary pushback against letting some passengers take their masks off and not others is solidarity: people who don’t need to wear them must so the people who do feel better about it. It’s awkward to allow some passengers to take their mask off inflight and not others.
What about those who have already recovered from the virus or have been vaccinated? Neither of those is a guarantee against infection, re-infection or spread but it reduces the likelihood, just like greater space in the cabin and downward air flow.
Perhaps a class of service-based exemption is more tenable than a vaccination exception because people who aren’t exempt won’t see those who are taking off their masks inflight in a separate cabin while laying down.