Cathay Pacific allows Business and First Class passengers to remove their masks when their seat is reclined to a fully flat position.

The Hong Kong based airline explains that the high enclosures surrounding its business class seats and first class suites, along with the greater degree of personal space, helps combat the airborne spread of COVID-19 between passengers.

Some flight attendants criticized that this practice could increase the risk of spreading the virus. They also expressed concerns that the airline was neglecting their health.

“Under this instruction, many crew members are worried about infecting Covid-19 after the close contact with passengers,” said Cheung Shu-wang, chairman of the Staffs and Workers Union of Hong Kong Civil Airlines. “This measure may aim at bringing convenience to the passengers” – he added.

A Cathay Pacific spokesperson confirmed the softened rules in a statement that “seats in First and Business Class are more spacious with partitions, and passengers are exempted when lying flat for sleep.”

The airline highlights that its aircrafts are equipped with high-efficiency filtration systems for cabin air circulation:

“Our aircraft are equipped with HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Arresters) filtration systems; these are capable of filtering 99.999% of dust particles and airborne contaminates such as viruses and bacteria, ensuring the highest possible cabin air quality.”