International travel will be a completely different game starting with your plane. No matter where you are going and which airline you are on board, you must wear a mask.
It is especially stressful for us. Unless your destination is New Zealand or somewhere else in the South Pacific, you are likely to face a flight of at least six hours and much more to North America or Europe. These el-cheapo but effective surgical masks slip and they just won’t cut it on a long flight, so you might want to invest in something more comfortable.
Children are exempted from mask protocols, but the age of exclusion varies. For US airlines, this only applies to children under two years of age. It could lead to an interesting conversation with a two-year-old truculent. US airlines also have strict rules about eating and drinking. Masks can be removed between bites, but chew and swallow, mask back on bud. It’s a federal requirement, so do not mess with cabin crew. North American airlines are also picky about ventilated masks, the kind with the small vent hole, as the valve does not shield virus particles. Japan Airlines, on the other hand, advises against speaking loudly during a flight as it will emit an infected speaker virus.
Food and drink have been parried back. On economy class, there is not too much difference as the deals were pretty basic to begin with, but some airlines dump cold, pre-packaged meals in a box on business passengers and eliminate some of the frills like snacks and spirits on request.
All airlines emphasize that high-efficiency particulate filters that scrub the aircraft’s cabin air can trap more than 99 percent of airborne microbes and even particles as small as a virus. This cabin air is updated every 2-3 minutes, and therefore any virus does not get a chance to hang in the cabin for long.
Airlines have also introduced deep cleaning procedures between flights and go the extra mile to clean up cabins. Qatar Airways uses a Honeywell UV Cabin System, a futuristic device with arms that run down the aisles with extendable arms that emit virus-sniffing UV light.
Most airlines have required customer-facing staff to be fully vaccinated.
Aside from the universal requirement to mask yourself, here is what you can expect aboard your next international flight. Each airline provides mask exemption to anyone who can prove a medical condition that makes it impossible to wear a mask, but seek permission from your airline in advance, the requirements vary.
All passengers on the airline’s international flights must be fully vaccinated with a TGA-approved or recognized vaccine, with some exceptions for medical reasons and children. Persons under the age of 12 are exempt from the requirement to wear a mask, although this age limit can be lowered on flights to and from the United States. The flight crew will ask you to restrict movement around the cabin, and food and beverages will be offered temporarily. A free Fly Well package consisting of a face mask and disinfectant wipes is available either before boarding or on board. Frontline staff including cabin crew, pilots and airport staff must be fully vaccinated by 15 November 2021 at the latest all other staff by 31 March 2022.
Air New Zealand
Photo: Nick Moir
From 1 February 2022, all passengers 18 and older on international flights must be fully vaccinated. Food and beverages are paused on domestic flights in New Zealand, but water is available upon request. Pilots, cabin crew and other customer-facing staff must be vaccinated by November 14th.
Children under the age of six are exempt from the requirement to wear a mask. Depending on the rules of your destination, you may also be required to wear gloves or other personal protective equipment. Emirates was the first airline to complete a flight with a fully vaccinated crew in February 2021. All Emirates non-vaccinated employees must pay for a COVID-19 test before flying.
The mask use requirement does not apply to children under the age of six, except on flights to and from the United States. All passengers receive a protective set with face mask, gloves and gel for hand sanitizer. Hand disinfection is available in the galley and the airline recommends that passengers wash their hands regularly throughout their journey. After each flight, linen, blankets are washed, dried and pressed at temperatures of up to 100 degrees Celsius, and economy-class pillowcases are placed inside. All Qatar Airways cabin crew have been vaccinated.
On August 1, 2020, as part of its wellness program, Etihad began requiring all passengers to show a negative PCR test taken before boarding, the only airline with this requirement. Etihad was also the first airline to implement mandatory COVID-19 vaccines for all flight and cabin crew. Wellness kits available on board include a face mask, hand gel and disinfectant wipes. In February 2021, Etihad became the world’s first airline to have all its operational pilots and cabin crews vaccinated.
All flyers ages two and older must wear a face mask that covers their nose and mouth completely without vents or openings. Passengers can remove masks when eating or drinking, but federal law requires them to put the mask back between bites and sips. Passengers must bring and use their own face mask, but United’s customer service agents will provide one if required. All employees of United have now been vaccinated, a small number of employees who refused to follow have been laid off.
Exceptions to the airline’s requirements for masking for medical reasons require documentation from an authorized healthcare provider, including proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within three calendar days of departure or proof of recovery from COVID-19. All employees of American Airlines in the United States must be fully vaccinated by November 24 or be face completed.
Delta Air Lines
Prolonged periods of removal of masks are not allowed to eat or drink – masks must be worn between bites and sips. Permitted masks include disposable surgical masks, cloth fabrics with tightly woven fabric and respirators (N95 or KN95), provided they do not have a valve. As with other U.S. airlines, children under the age of two are exempt, and passengers who are unable to wear a mask for reasons related to their disability must complete Delta’s Clearance-to-Fly ‘process at the airport. All airlines’ new hires must be vaccinated, existing staff who remain unvaccinated pay a health insurance fee of $ 200 per person. Month.
With the exception of flights to and from the United States, all passengers over the age of six must wear an approved face mask that sits snugly over the nose, mouth, and chin. Anyone with a medical certificate confirming their condition makes it impossible to wear a mask during the trip must provide evidence of a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of departure. The airline has a mandatory vaccination policy for all employees.
Passengers aged six and over must wear face masks provided with the Singapore Airlines Care Kit. The airline advises passengers to replace their mask when it gets damp. Singapore Airlines no longer distributes printed menus on board, but you can preview food and beverages on the flight up to eight days before your flight. All of the airlines’ Singapore-based frontline staff were vaccinated from 1 September.
JAL’s FlySafe hygiene measures ask passengers not to drink large amounts of alcohol and talk to accompanying passengers with loud voices. They should also store their own hand luggage rather than relying on cabin crew and flushing the toilet only when the lid is down. Passengers are asked to maintain social distance as they board and leave the plane, which could be interesting given the pop-up passengers getting up en masse as soon as the seat belt lights up after landing. In mid-June, JAL launched a campaign to vaccinate 36,000 group workers with the first focus on those working on international routes.
See also: PCR: What you need to know about mandatory COVID testing for travelers
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