The Singapore International Airlines (SIA) and Scoot announced that starting from 1 June 2023, flight attendants would no longer be required to wear masks during their duty.
In response, some flight attendants have expressed concerns as they felt that the companies indirectly discouraged them from wearing masks, even though the announcement mentioned that it was optional.
This has raised fears among the staff regarding the increased risk of infection, and flight attendants have called for the companies to grant them the choice to wear masks while on duty
In response to the concerns, a spokesperson from the Singapore Airlines Group stated that flight attendants who choose to wear masks will still be allowed to perform their duties.
SIA And Scoot Allegedly Forbids Staff Members From Wearing Masks on Flight
Previously, in 2020, SIA staff were required to wear masks, goggles, or eye visors throughout the flight while interacting with passengers.
They were also mandated to wear gloves during meal services and trained to assist unwell passengers.
While airlines like Cathay Pacific have shifted to a mask-optional approach for their crew, as of May 2023, SIA still maintained the policy of requiring cabin crew and pilots to wear face masks on all flights.
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In response to Singapore’s new endemic approach to COVID-19, the Singapore Airlines Group announced that starting from 1 June 2023, they would be relaxing these regulations.
Under the new guidelines, staff will only be required to wear masks on flights if they travel to destinations where mask-wearing is mandatory or if they are returning to Singapore from such places.
Staff members who do not feel the need to wear masks will be allowed to refrain from doing so.
However, on 25 May 2023, two SIA and Scoot staff members shared internal announcements stating that flight attendants “should not wear masks” while in uniform to maintain a unified and consistent approach.
The notice also mentioned that flight attendants should only wear gloves when cleaning cabin toilets and wear masks if local government regulations mandate it.
These allegations were confirmed by a Scoot crew member who preferred to remain anonymous.
They stated that when a colleague inquired about wearing a mask while cleaning the cabin toilets, a company representative advised against wearing a mask while in uniform and said that removing mask-wearing would be mandatory from June 2023.
Higher Risk of Contracting COVID-19 Due to Relaxed COVID-19 Restrictions on Flights
As travel restrictions have been lifted, individuals who are not fully vaccinated against COVID-19 are no longer required to provide proof of a negative pre-departure test before entering Singapore.
Similarly, the latest directive from the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) regarding COVID-19 no longer includes requiring cabin crew to wear masks.
This change was made on 25 August 2022, and mask-wearing by passengers was also removed from the regulations.
While this allows for the resumption of travel norms, it also increases the risk of virus transmission if individuals do not remain vigilant or keep up with their COVID-19 vaccinations.
Airline staff, including cabin crew, are particularly vulnerable to the risk of COVID-19 infections.
Airlines have reported instances of passengers flying while ill and coughing without wearing masks.
Moreover, according to their staff, many of the destinations served by Scoot still pose a high risk of infection
Furthermore, the airlines’ announcement that crew members only wear masks while cleaning the plane’s toilets could expose crew members to a higher risk of contracting the coronavirus.
Flushing of toilets in public restrooms can aerosolise faecal waste, releasing tiny particles of bacteria into the air.
Studies have shown that the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19, can be present in faeces for up to a month after the illness.
In addition to faecal aerosols, aerosols generated when an infected person coughs or talks in enclosed spaces can be inhaled and settle on surrounding surfaces, such as bathroom countertops.
This means that the air in an enclosed space like a public restroom or plane can contain coronavirus particles for several hours if an infectious passenger has been present.
Singapore Airlines Responds to Staff’s Concerns About New Regulations
Despite the risks associated with the adjustment, a 50-year-old flight attendant, who preferred to remain anonymous, expressed no concern and had no objections.
However, the attendant acknowledged that some colleagues, particularly those from Scoot, were understandably uneasy about the change and desired the option to choose whether to wear a mask.
In response to the concerns raised by the staff, a spokesperson for the Singapore Airlines Group stated that if the destination does not mandate mask-wearing and the crew members wish to wear masks while performing their flight duties, they are allowed to do so.
The spokesperson further mentioned that the group is committed to understanding the cabin crew’s concerns and working collaboratively to enhance their well-being during flights.
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