Pressure is growing in New Zealand to make face masks compulsory on planes to help make the aviation sector more viable and protect jobs.
Normally, the prospect of wanting to squeeze in tighter to fellow passengers and being made to wear a mask just wouldn't fly.
But these are not normal times.
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There is growing recognition that the longer airlines can't fill their planes the more expensive flying will become and the longer it will take for these important businesses to recover.
Along the way, too many aviation and tourism jobs are being lost. If there's a way to get this country moving again - safely - there is no time to lose.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says relaxing rules over distancing in planes could be part of incremental changes within alert level 2 as part of the Government's need to not to be too doctrinaire on the health front as the economic crisis deepens.
While antagonism between airlines and unions over redundancies is starting to spill over publicly, they are united in wanting the sector to recover.
The union representing cabin crew at Jetstar, Air New Zealand and Auckland-based Qantas crew said it supported a suggestion by pilots in this country to make mask-wearing compulsory in order to fill the ''middle seat'' to fulfil physical distancing guidelines.
E tū says its first priority was the safety of cabin crew and passengers but it was also important that airlines are allowed to fly and that the industry can rebuild and improve.
"If masks and other public health measures mean more seats can be filled and flying can get back to normal sooner that is a gain for the industry, for cabin crew and the travelling public," said the union's head of aviation, Savage.
There are signs of recovery overseas with some airlines restoring international routes - with passengers wearing masks - and here Air New Zealand is expanding its domestic network gradually. But jobs are disappearing fast in this country.
Yesterday, E tū revealed 1300 flight attendants - half Air NZ's total cabin crew - will lose their jobs and 300 of the airline's pilots are also being made redundant. Their union, the NZ Air Line Pilots Association, is pointing to an international airline body's stand.
"Rather than leaving valuable and much-needed middle seats empty as part of social-distancing measures, the association instead supported the evidence-based advice of international Air Transport Association medical professionals."
Qantas and Jetstar will give masks to all passengers and implement other measures but will no longer leave an empty seat between passengers to provide a level of social distancing on board. The airline says it is impractical, unnecessary and would result in higher airfares. And Qantas boss Alan Joyce says the 60cm gap achieved by a leaving the middle seat empty is token social distancing at great economic cost.
"To get the four metres squared, you'll end up with 22 people on an aircraft of 180 seats ... and the airfares are nine to 10 times as much," he said.
Air NZ says it is working with health authorities on physical distancing but for now is flying with reduced capacity of around 65 per cent on jets and 50 per cent on turbo-prop aircraft.
IATA has calculated that social distancing measures on aircraft fundamentally shifts the economics of aviation by slashing the maximum load factor to 62 per cent - 15 per cent below the average industry break-even load factor of 77 per cent.
With fewer seats to sell, unit costs would rise sharply. Compared to 2019, airfares would need to go up dramatically - between 43 per cent and 54 per cent depending on the region - just to break even. Air NZ has warned there will be fewer bargain fares although needs to price carefully - too many high prices won't wash.
The airline says it is working with the Ministry of Health to introduce a range of measures on the ground and in the air to create a safe travel environment for its customers and crew.
The company is bleeding cash and supports a review of social distancing requirements onboard aircraft, with a view to returning to normal seating arrangements as soon as possible. It points out that removing social distancing will help New Zealand's tourism industry get back on its feet and support our struggling regional economies.
Air Chathams provides face masks for passengers heading to its home base and says passengers support their use.
Epidemiologist Michael Baker continues to push for wearing of masks especially on public transport and he too points to the economic benefit of being able to fill buses and planes.
A Ministry of Health spokeswoman said it was reviewing guidelines for face mask use, including their use during air travel.
"Our current advice on masks outside of the health sector states that most non-health workers will not need to wear a mask," she said.
"One question that is often asked is whether passengers should wear masks when on a flight. Wear a mask if you are not feeling well. Otherwise there is no need to do so."
The Prime Minister says the country is opening up as quickly as it can and as safely as it can. If mandatory mask wearing on planes is needed to speed that up so be it.