Qantas and Virgin Australia have made face masks compulsory on all flights to, from and within NSW, in accordance with state regulations now in effect.
Both airline have to date been requesting passengers to wear masks on all domestic flights, and issuing complimentary face masks and hand sanitisers upon boarding.
Qantas and Virgin Australia have confirmed to Executive Traveller that it's now mandatory to mask up on all NSW flights unless you're under 12 years of age or have a medical condition. Similar regulations have been in place for Victorian flights for several months.
"When travelling from and within New South Wales or Victoria, you'll need to wear your mask as soon as you enter the airport, and also inflight," Qantas says. "When travelling to New South Wales or Victoria, you'll need to wear your mask during boarding and inflight."
A spokesman for Virgin Australia said it has now also mandated the wearing of masks on all flights to and from New South Wales or Victoria.
Face masks have been mandatory on all Regional Express flights since June 2020.
Fines and flight bans
NSW Police can issue an on the spot $200 fine to anybody not wearing a face mask across a range of indoor setting in Greater Sydney, including "on public/shared transport and waiting areas for public/shared transport."
Qantas and Virgin Australia declined to comment on how they would deal with any passenger who refused to wear a mask, although under airline 'conditions of carriage' all passengers are required to follow "reasonable directions" of a crew member.
Many overseas airlines which have already made masks mandatory have dealt with passengers who refuse to wear a mask by removing them from the flight and in several cases banning them from the airline.
Must you wear a mask at an airport lounge?
However, the rules surrounding lounges are less clear – although airlines and health authorities naturally encourage wearing a face mask, along with social distancing, in indoor venues.
Airlines consider their airport lounges as hospitality venues similar to cafes and bars: under NSW Health regulations, the staff at such facilities are required to wear a mask, but not customers.
Qantas and Virgin have also reconfigured their airport lounges to comply with state regulations regarding capacity, such as NSW's current 'one person per four square metres' rule.
Virgin Australia has added QR code-sign codes to its Sydney lounge, which reopened on December 15, with a Virgin spokesman adding that "customers should ensure they’re aware of government requirements prior to travel, including local advice around wearing face masks and coverings within the airport and in our lounges."
A NSW Health spokesperson said the government agency "acknowledges the order will not capture every conceivable setting or scenario where the wearing of masks may be appropriate."
"In these cases, we are calling on the public to exercise common sense and follow the longstanding NSW Health advice to wear masks in those indoor settings where physical distancing is not possible."