Which face mask should you use when flying?
Use one from the airline or bring your own? Here's what to consider.
So here's the deal: Qantas, Virgin, Jetstar and Rex all encourage passengers to wear masks when flying domestically, but haven't made them mandatory. The one big exception is flights to and from Victoria. If you are taking one of those (as an essential worker or for a compassionate trip), you'll need to mask up.
For this guide, I'm assuming you plan to wear a mask on your next domestic flight regardless, because you want to do your bit to help control the spread of coronavirus. The question then becomes: which mask? Let's go over the options.
A note before we start: Obviously, it's not a time for gratuitous travel. Weigh up your trip plans and respect the rapidly changing situations in different states before you set off.
Use the airline-provided mask
Qantas, Jetstar and Virgin Australia all provide disposable masks (in a sealed plastic bag with hand sanitiser). Rex's official policy is that it will sell you a mask if you don't bring your own. Anecdotally, when you check in with Rex, you may well get a mask for free if you don't have one.
The supplied mask is a good solution if you won't be using public transport to get to the airport, which would likely mean you were already wearing one. If you're already wearing a cloth mask anyway (and haven't repeatedly removed it), it might be better off stored for future use.
Bring your own mask and wear it
- If you know your current mask choice is comfortable, you might prefer that over the lottery of an airline-supplied mask. If you generally find wearing a mask disruptive, this is definitely worth considering.
- If you're using a higher-grade medical mask because you're particularly concerned about transmission, you'll certainly want to use that.
- Reusable masks have less environmental impact, since you aren't throwing them out after every use.
How many extra masks should you travel with?
So far, I've been talking about the flight itself. However, you'll also need masks for your destination. How many will depend on your plans while away and the local regulations that apply. But as a rule of thumb, you'll want at least one mask a day if you're doing anything that potentially involves some level of some social contact. They're light enough that packing weight won't be a consideration. Better to have spares than panic mid-trip.
Whether you go cloth or reusable depends on your circumstances. I'm a fan of reusable and intend to take those on an upcoming trip, but I know I'll have access to facilities to wash and dry them correctly (our guide on how to wash your mask has more details). If that's not the case, disposable masks could be a wiser choice.
Want more help with masks? Check out our overview of face masks, how to choose the best one, what doctors recommend when using them, the rules that apply in Australia and our regularly-updated guide on where to buy masks.