SAS Ends Mask Requirement For Regional Flights

Scandinavian Airlines is about to remove the requirement for passengers to wear face coverings onboard its regional flights. As of tomorrow, the use of masks will no longer be a requirement on the carrier’s intra-Scandinavia services. However, for flights to destinations elsewhere in Europe and further afield, the mandate will remain in place for now.

SAS A320neo
The change follows alterations to government positions on non-essential travel. Photo: Getty Images

A new policy as of tomorrow

Eagle-eyed users of Scandinavian Airlines’ website may have noticed that the airline made an interesting alteration to its coronavirus policies this week. This occurred on Friday, October 15th, and regards the use of face-coverings onboard its flights within Scandinavia. Specifically, SAS, which serves as the flag carrier for Denmark, Norway, and Sweden, stated:

Due to the opening of societies and general recommendations from authorities in Scandinavia, SAS is, from 18 October 2021, removing the requirement for mandatory use of face masks on flights within Scandinavia.”

The policy change, which comes into effect tomorrow, represents an interesting step back towards pre-pandemic travel conventions. The news follows a key announcement for the region last month, whereby Norway and Sweden ceased to advise against non-essential travel. SAS has a busy Scandinavian network that connects its cities and remote areas.

SAS Scandinavia Destinations
Passengers on flights between these locations will no longer require masks from tomorrow. Image: SAS

Masks still required on other SAS flights

The removal of the mask requirement onboard flights within and between Denmark, Norway, and Sweden is an interesting decision that will see passenger cabins begin to look how we previously knew them. After all, the requirement to wear a face-covering onboard aircraft has become almost universal on flights during the coronavirus pandemic.

However, it is important to note that, for SAS flights beyond its home region, a mask mandate remains in place. This applies to all passengers, except those below six years of age, or travelers with a written medical exemption. The carrier explains that:

SAS will be following recommendations from EASA regarding the mandatory use of face masks on other SAS flights, operating outside Denmark, Norway, and Sweden. SAS maintains the requirement to use face masks onboard flights to other European and Intercontinental destinations until further notice.”

SAS Ireland Airbus A320neo London Heathrow
Passengers onboard SAS’s European and intercontinental flights will continue to be required to wear face coverings. Photo: Jake Hardiman | Simple Flying

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A rare position

With masks having become the norm onboard flights this and last year, it is rare to see an airline remove this policy. Cathay Pacific has made a similar exception, but this only applies to passengers in its business and first class cabins. Here, density is lower, and seats offer greater privacy. Meanwhile, economy passengers remain subject to the mandate.

Some airlines foresee masks being a part of travel for years. Zack Zainal Abidin, Senior VP for Emirates Group Security, believes: “It’s going to be a while before the status of COVID-19 changes, and there’s going to be at least two more years of people wearing masks.”

In the US, the TSA recently extended the country’s federal mask mandate through to mid-January of 2022. The mandate had been set to expire this September. It will be interesting to see whether any airlines follow SAS in the removal of mask requirements..

What do you make of this policy change? Do you know of any other airlines to have implemented similar alterations? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.