Airlines are banning cloth masks in favour of surgical-grade masks

The new travel checklist: passport, noise-cancelling headphones, N95-grade face mask...

By David Flynn, August 31 2021
Airlines are banning cloth masks in favour of surgical-grade masks

While air travel is slowly rebounding, several airlines are now clamping down on the use of simple cloth face masks and insisting on higher-grade masks which are more efficient at preventing the airborne spread of Covid-19.

On flights and in airport lounges, fabric coverings – which some airlines are now classifying as "everyday masks" – are no longer permitted.

Instead, travellers need to don a surgical mask or other masks which meet the FFP2 or N95 criteria for filtering out aerosols.

Finnair is the latest airline to ban cloth mask from flights, with the new minimum standard being an N95 valveless respirator mask.

“The safety of our customers and employees is our first priority," the Finnish flag-carrier says.

"Fabric masks are slightly less efficient at protecting people from infection than surgical masks. We accept surgical masks, FFP2 or FFP3 respirator masks without a valve or other valve-free masks with the same standard (N95)."

The airline no longer requires passengers to present Covid certificates before boarding flights to Finland following the country's decision to open to fully-vaccinated travellers from across Europe.

Lufthansa and sibling Swiss have required surgical masks since the beginning of the year, decreeing "face masks of the FFP2, KN95, or N95 standard, as well as surgical masks, are obligatory when boarding, onboard, and when leaving the aircraft."

Air France has also mandated the wearing of surgical masks rather than cloth masks, qualifying them as masks which "filter at least 95% of particles as small as 3 microns in size."

"The surgical mask both filters inhaled and expired air," Air France adds, pointing out that this means it not only "filters particles emitted by the mask wearer... it also protects the person wearing the mask against droplets emitted by a person facing them."

On the local front, Qantas and Virgin Australia have long made single-use surgical masks available in lounges and on flights, although passengers are free to use any mask.


David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.