Finland’s national flag carrier Finnair has followed Lufthansa’s lead by banning cloth face masks from its flights. In January of this year, Lufthansa said that starting from February 1st, passengers would not be able to wear what the airline called “everyday masks.” In other words, cloth face coverings and not respirator masks that meet N95 standards.
Finnair, like Lufthansa, believes that fabric masks are not as efficient as medical masks when it comes to protecting passengers from being exposed to the coronavirus. As such, the Helsinki-based airline says that from August 16th cloth face masks would no longer be permitted on Finnair flights. Instead, passengers will now be required to wear a valveless respirator mask that meets N95 standards.
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Face masks must meet N95 standards
To inform the flying public of the new mask requirements, Finnair issued the following statement on its website and social media channels:
“The safety of our customers and employees is our first priority. 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).
“Please keep in mind that you need to wear a mask throughout the flight, and it needs to continuously cover your nose and mouth. You can only remove it for a limited time while you’re eating or drinking. Please make sure you always wear a mask when interacting with Finnair employees, whether it’s at the airport or onboard.”
Starting 16 August, we will no longer accept fabric masks on our flights. We accept surgical masks, FFP2 or FFP3 respirator masks without a valve or other valve free masks with the same standard (N95). Please remember you need to wear a mask throughout the entire journey. pic.twitter.com/Am4SxtT1G3
— Finnair (@Finnair) August 13, 2021
There was a shortage of N95 masks
Initially, cloth masks were recommended to people as they provided some protection against the spread of COVID-19. Also, there was a shortage of N95 standard masks in the early days of the pandemic, and what was available was needed by medical personnel treating COVID-19 patients.
The difference between a face mask made from cloth and one made specially to filter out at least 95% of airborne particles is enormous. Face masks that meet the US National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) N95 classification filter out 95% of 0.3 (0.0003 millimeters) particles. They are also tighter fitting than cloth masks and perform the job they were designed to do. Cloth masks, on the other hand, tend to be looser fitting and more effortless to breathe through and vary depending on the weave of the cloth.
Most masks made at home or cloth face coverings bought from a store can be 1,000 times less effective than masks that meet N95 standards. Because of this, cloth masks have a minimal effect on a person’s chances of breathing in or expelling droplets that contain the virus. Studies have concluded that cloth masks should only be considered as a last resort to help stop the spread of COVID-19 from infected individuals.
Should more airlines ban cloth face masks?
While the ventilation air filtration systems on commercial aircraft are state-of-the-art, it can all come down to who you are sitting next to and if they are infected. And it does no matter how long you are on the plane as you can, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), become infected in less than 15 minutes.
So far, only Air France, Finnair, LATAM, and Lufthansa have banned cloth face masks. In France, the government has also passed legislation banning reusable masks on all flights. While in the United States, masks with ventilators primarily used in construction have been banned.
Considering that the delta variant of the virus is 40-60% more transmissible, do you think that more airlines should ban cloth face masks? Please tell us what you think in the comments.