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NZ Pilots Pleased At Ministry’s Recommendation Of Masks For Passengers

19 June 2020

After weeks of calling for masks to be provided for onboard passengers, the New Zealand Air Line Pilots’ Association (NZALPA) is pleased that the Ministry of Health has finally recommended the adoption of masks and further measures to help combat the transmission of COVID-19 on aircraft.    

“With three new COVID-19 cases now onshore, New Zealand’s confidence has taken a hit.  As international pilots, many who continued flying cargo through the lockdown period, we’ve always advocated taking no chances with our own health and that of our families and friends once back home,” said NZALPA President Captain Andrew Ridling.

“Our pilots have taken their responsibilities very seriously and are following the Ministry of Health guidelines at all of our destinations. As has been noted by the Prime Minister, we understand there is a COVID-19 transmission risk to the crew and the travelling public. Our role requires us to mitigate that risk as far as possible but we understand the importance of these continued freight and passenger flights in rebuilding New Zealand’s economy”.

“We’ve been working with the Government and industry groups on the Trans-Tasman Safe Border Group between New Zealand and Australia and advocating for the need for masks and other measures such as sanitising wipes for passengers so as to better manage inflight risk.

“The Ministry’s move is now consistent with the recommendations from the United Nations International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), the International Air Travel Association (IATA) and the International Federation of Air Line Pilots’ Associations (IFALPA).  Already followed by most international airlines, these were developed to protect passengers and help restart the global air transport system.

Captain Ridling said that, although the filtered air on board aircraft was safer than that of an operating theatre, meaning the risk of transmission was very low, the use of face masks and other increased antibacterial measures would add extra protection and assurance.   

“Our international ports of destination and departure are very strict with testing, heath screening and tracing.  Our members already stay on arrival under strict lockdown conditions and will honour the further isolation and testing requirements on our return to New Zealand, as recommended by the Director-General of Health. 

“While the world awaits a vaccine against COVID-19 we must continue to put the health of crew and the travelling public first.

“These recommendations are a welcome step towards beating this continuing COVID-19 threat and, for our members, getting many New Zealanders’ professional careers back on track,” Captain Ridling said. 



Media contact for interviews and further information:  Linda Harrison 027 444 0996





IATA has given several likely reasons why COVID-19, which is spread primarily by respiratory droplets, has not resulted in more on-board transmission, and is different from other modes of public transport:

  • Passengers face forward with limited face-to-face interactions
  • Seats provide a barrier to transmission forward to aft in the cabin
  • Air flow from ceiling to floor further reduces the potential for transmission forward or aft in the cabin, moreover, air flow rates are high and not conducive to droplet spread in the same way as in other indoor environments
  • High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters on modern aircraft clean cabin air to operating theatre quality.


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