The loophole Qantas passengers are using to not wear masks on flights

·Associate News Editor
·3-min read

While Qantas's disgruntled CEO called for the end to the mask mandate for planes, it appears some passengers are using a loophole to not wear a face covering in the air.

Alan Joyce on Friday said the requirement for all domestic passengers to wear a face mask "should have been removed some time ago" as large parts of the world continue to settle into a Covid-19 norm.

“We are a little behind the curve on this, we do need to move on it,” Mr Joyce told 2GB.

However the effectiveness of the mandate on Qantas flights has come into question after a staff member said some passengers had worked out a way to circumvent the rule.

Masks remain compulsory on domestic flights in Australia. Source: Getty, file.
Masks remain compulsory on domestic flights in Australia. Source: Getty, file.

A veteran flight crew source at Qantas told Yahoo News Australia staff have been instructed they cannot ask a passenger for details or proof of an exemption if they claim to have one.

This has led to a number of copycat incidents when other travellers hear exchanges between staff and non-mask wearing passengers, the source said, with staff angered over the helpless position they find themselves in.

"You don't know whether they're lying or they've heard about this loophole and they just don't want to wear a mask," they said.

"The other night I heard one guy say 'if he's not wearing one, I'm not either.. I've got an exemption too'."

The source said they supported the mandate due to the confined space and the recycled air everyone is breathing.

"But at the end of the day we're not the mask police, we've got too much other stuff to be doing to be worrying about people's masks."

Qantas calls for more consistency

Qantas did not answer whether or not crew had been instructed not to ask about exemptions when asked a series of questions by Yahoo News Australia.

Qantas however says the vast majority of people are complying with the mandate, and passengers are reminded several times before boarding of their requirements.

Passengers who are abusive to crew can be reported to Federal Police, and potentially issued with a ‘no-fly’ ban.

Qantas planes line up at Sydney.
Qantas's CEO believes the mandate should be scrapped. Source: Getty

It is an offence to refuse to follow crew instructions onboard, and this includes any directions relating to the wearing of masks.

On Friday, the mask mandate inside airports was removed by The Australian Health Protection Principal Committee.

Qantas said the decision "reinforces that the next step should be to remove mask mandates onboard aircraft".

With flights to certain international destinations not requiring face masks, Qantas said the current situation was likely confusing for passengers.

"We’re doing our best to help them prepare for their flights as well as continuing to talk to governments about the need for more consistent rules," the airline said.

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