The arrival of COVID-19 has changed the way we travel. While the number one priority of airlines is the safety of its passengers and crew, COVID-19 presented airlines with a whole new set of safety-related challenges to deal with. From mandatory mask-wearing and blocking middle-seats to reduced in-flight service, new safety measures have become standard in most cases.
However, one airline, Cathay Pacific, created quite a stir when it announced it will be giving its business and first-class passengers the option to remove their masks.
Cathay Pacific is the fifth largest airline measured by sales, and fourteenth largest measured by market capitalization.
Cathay Pacific joined Qatar Airways in a rare category, but Qatar Airways after facing huge backlash now says masks are mandatory for all, despited words to the contrary, and a press release stating ” Business Class customers are asked to wear their face shield and mask onboard at their own discretion, as they enjoy more space and privacy.”
Qatar Airways was the first, and for a while, the only airline to allow passengers in its business class cabin, or beloved Qsuites, to use masks “at their discretion” rather than as standard policy. Qatar Airways provides privacy doors in most business class seats, transforming seats into ‘suites’.
Cathay Pacific’s new directive was unearthed by Executive Traveller via an internal memo to staff, which has since been confirmed.
For context, Cathay Pacific’s first-class cabin features only six lie-flat seats laid out in a spacious and private 1-1-1 configuration. Each seat is a full 36 inches wide and offers 81 inches of pitch. While Cathay doesn’t offer fully enclosed suites with closing doors like some of its competitors, this configuration offers plenty of privacy. In business class on Cathay’s A350-900s there are 38 lie-flat seats laid out in a 1-2-1 reverse-herringbone configuration, split among two cabins.
The relaxed restrictions only apply when a passenger’s seat is reclined in the fully-flat position. This might come as a relief to Cathay frequent flyers who are still traveling, but it has raised lots of questions about safety and equality.
It’s intriguing that Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific is the second airline to join in reducing mask mandates. Hong Kong has been one of the strictest cities in fighting off covid-19, and even flight crews face huge restrictions when entering. Travel corridors with Singapore were put on hold over 60 cases, bursting plans for regional travel.
While China’s airlines are letting the rich enjoy, a family was kicked off a United Airlines jet and banned for life all because their 2-year-old daughter refused to wear her mask.