Updated: 16th April 2021 with important changes to flights to/from USA. Here you will find useful information on what individual airlines are currently saying (April 2021) regarding the use of face masks and whether children are required to wear an airplane face mask. Read the entire article for a more in depth look at the rules, or use the contents to head straight to your preferred airline and see if kids have to wear a face mask on a plane.
If you are flying with a baby or toddler, then that age group is exempt on most airlines. However, all airlines (USA based) are implementing rules that children 2 and over must wear a mask, with no exemptions.
What Are The Airline Rules for Wearing a Face Mask on a Plane?
Airlines all vary on their rules with masks but what are they and can they actually be enforced? This will very much depend on the unique situation. ie how is safety impacted for the passengers, crew or aircraft? And whether it’s law in that country. In the USA it’s currently federal law until further notice for ALL passengers on ANY airline to or from the USA aged 2 and above to wear a mask. This means you must comply by law unless exempt for reasons listed further below.
The Captain is in charge of the flight and it is he or she who ultimately has a say over who can travel, especially if they have any concerns for the flights operation and safety during flight.
The pilot in command stands in the role of the air carrier and can decide whether to remove a passenger from a flight for safety reasons. Before we delve deeper, I am by no means a legal professional. This information comes from my research and experience as an ex flight attendant who has had circumstances arise where the Captain has needed to refuse travel or authorise restraining a passenger etc, when there has been a real risk to either fellow passengers, crew or the aircraft. Every occurrence was unique.
If there was unacceptable behaviour that endangered the aircraft, passengers or crew, then legally a Captain in command can decide to remove a passenger. Currently EASA (European Union Aviation Safety Agency) and IATA recommend the wearing of masks on airlines.
In the USA, federal law since January 2021 requires airline passengers to wear masks unless they are under two years old. Previously, in the USA, airline passengers, including a 3 year old with autism have been removed for not being able to wear a mask.
This is because airlines could make their own rules in some cases, and although most US airlines were following the USA CDC guidelines. which are ,
“Children 2 years and older should wear a mask over their nose and mouth when in public settings where it’s difficult to practice social distancing. This is an additional public health measure people should take to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in addition to (not instead of) the other everyday preventive actions listed above.”
They must now do so as required by federal law. This affects all flights with any airline into and from the USA.
What aviation authorities say:
“Passengers who refuse to adhere to the preventive measures in place should be refused access to the airport’s terminal building, to the aircraft cabin, or disembarked, if the event takes place before the aircraft doors are shut, and removed from the airport premises by the competent authorities according to national/local legislation.
Furthermore, subject to national requirements, they may be subject to additional actions as determined by the local authorities at the departure airport. If the event takes place in flight, the procedures relating to handling cases of unruly or disruptive passengers should be followed. If endangering the flight safety and the health of the other passengers and aircrew members, further action may be taken by the local authorities at the destination airport in line with national requirements.
But what about children?
EASA say, ” an exemption to wearing a face mask can be made for instances where it is otherwise specified, such as during security checks or identification control. Children under 6 years of age and people that cannot wear a face mask due to medical reasons can also be exempted.
Exemptions to mask wearing if flying to or from the USA.
The federal government of the USA since January set a mandate that the ONLY exemptions to mask wearing onboard is,
- A child under the age of 2 years;
- A person with a disability who cannot wear a mask, or cannot safely wear a mask, because of the disability as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act (42 U.S.C. 12101 et seq.).9
- A person for whom wearing a mask would create a risk to workplace health, safety, or job duty as determined by the relevant workplace safety guidelines or federal regulations.”
Failure to comply could lead to arrest and being banned from the airline.
IATA currently adds, that they recommend the wearing of masks.
“The International Air Transport Association (IATA) supports the wearing of face coverings for passengers and masks for crew while on board aircraft as a critical part of a layered approach to biosecurity to be implemented temporarily when people return to traveling by air. IATA does not support mandating social distancing measures that would leave ‘middle seats’ empty.
Evidence suggests that the risk of transmission on board aircraft is low. Mask-wearing by passengers and crew will reduce the already low risk, while avoiding the dramatic cost increases to air travel that onboard social distancing measures would bring.
“The safety of passengers and crew is paramount. The aviation industry is working with governments to re-start flying when this can be done safely. Evidence suggests that the risk of transmission on board aircraft is low. And we will take measures—such as the wearing of face coverings by passengers and masks by crew—to add extra layers of protection. We must arrive at a solution that gives passengers the confidence to fly and keeps the cost of flying affordable. One without the other will have no lasting benefit,” said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s Director General and CEO.”
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Where does this leave parents?
With this unique situation continually evolving and rules being so varied, and throwing normal kid behaviour into the mix, it makes it very hard to determine what would actually happen if things kicked off regarding a child not wearing a mask on board. One would hope a degree of understanding by both crew and other passengers, with no consequences to the family for trying, being polite, non threatening etc but the USA airlines are now taking a tough stance on mask wearing, with all requiring children 2 and over to wear one, and no one, whatever the circumstances is exempt. It is now federal law, meaning you and kids aged 2 and over MUST legally comply. You will be asked to deplane and may incur costs or prosecution. If you are due to travel to or from the US with any airline with a 2 year old or older who will not wear a mask, it is advisable to make alternative plans.
The January 2021 US federal law mandate for wearing masks applies to ALL airlines flying into the USA regardless of USA based or not as is applicable to all children two and over.
As parents are well aware, the best plans and intentions can work out a little differently than the way you imagined with kids. With a child fussing over using a seat belt it’s easier to comply, (and legally has to be complied with), but a 15 hour flight with a mask? So, fellow parents try your best to comply if you are flying with a non USA airline.
Many other airlines, as you can see from below do understand the practicalities for trying to get a young child to wear a mask on a flight. We will attempt to on our next flight and will update how it went!
Last thoughts before the guide to airline requirements.
SO, the low down is from researching this, it is important to realise that each airline can vary, so do research your options and have back up plans: Airlines for America have said, “Each carrier will determine the appropriate consequences for passengers who are found to be in noncompliance of the airline’s face covering policy up to and including suspension of flying privileges on that airline.”
What Airlines are Requiring Face Masks?
This is by no means an exhaustive list, but gives you 12 major airlines current rules for face masks during the Coronavirus pandemic and their policies on children wearing them plus extra information to help you plan.
Alaskan Airlines Covid-19 Travel Guide
- No mask? No travel. Per Alaska Airlines policy, a cloth face mask or covering is required for the duration of your flight, including boarding and deplaning. Effective August 7, 2020, mask exceptions apply only to children under the age of 2 (in alignment with CDC age guidelines). If you are unable to wear a mask throughout the airport and for the duration of your flight for any reason, you will not be able to fly with us. This is for the safety of all guests and employees.
- If you forgot your mask at home, we have them available upon request.
- Your mask or face covering must cover your nose and mouth and should only be removed when briefly eating or drinking.
- Guests who repeatedly refuse to wear a mask or face covering will be given a final warning—in the form of a yellow card—and may be suspended from flying with us for a period of time. Read more about mask enforcement.
- If a passenger is unwilling or unable to wear a mask or face covering for any reason, Alaska will be unable to provide them with travel.
- While on board, guests who repeatedly remove or refuse to wear a mask or face covering will be given a final warning—in the form of a yellow card. With a yellow card warning, the guest’s travel with Alaska will be suspended immediately upon landing. Any remaining portion of the guest’s itinerary will be canceled—to include any connecting or return flights—along with any future trips the guest has booked. The guest will be provided with a full refund for any unused travel and will be responsible for making their own travel arrangements from that point.
- The only time when guests are allowed to temporarily remove their masks is when briefly drinking or eating.
Acceptable face coverings
- Face coverings must be made from a cloth or other barrier material that prevents the discharge, release, and expulsion of respiratory droplets from a person’s nose or mouth.
- If you are wearing a face shield, you must also wear a mask.
Unacceptable face coverings
- Face coverings with direct exhaust valves
- Face coverings that do not cover a guest’s nose and mouth
- Face shields without masks
Covid-19 Travel Guide: https://www.aa.com/i18n/travel-info/coronavirus-updates.jsp
- A face covering is required while flying on American, except for very young children under two.
- Please bring your own face covering to use while traveling.
- Curbside check-in may not be available.
- Due to the increased flight changes, we’ve stopped checking pets for now.
- We’ve temporarily closed and consolidated premium clubs and lounges.
- We’re limiting food and drink service in the Main Cabin based on flight length and destination. You’re welcome to bring snacks and soft drinks on board to enjoy during your flight.
- Wipes or gels will be available on most international flights and some domestic flights over 900 miles.
A face covering is required for everyone while flying on American, except for very young children under two.
From Customer Services Representative: Children too young to wear a face-covering are exempt, no worries. Please check here for details.
Covid-19 Travel Guide: https://www.britishairways.com/en-ph/information/the-ba-experience/welcome-on-board
- You’ll be offered a new food service which will reduce physical contact with our crew.
- Special meals, including children’s meals, are unavailable. Please bring your own food if required.
- Self-scan your boarding pass where possible but we’ll be on hand to check your passport details.
- Once you have boarded the aircraft, we will be offering all our customers a personal protection pack which contains an antibacterial wipe and hand sanitiser gel. We will also provide you with a sealable disposal bag to dispose of any personal protective equipment you may have e.g. face mask.
- We require all customers to wear a face mask at all times while on board.
- Baggage collection – The process will be the same, though you’ll need to observe safe distance markers at all times.
- We have temporarily removed our Skyflyers packs.
Rules for Masks:
From BA Customer Service Representative: We are following the UK Government’s travel advise, which can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-safer-travel-guidance-for-passengers#exemptions-face-coverings.
The requirement to wear a face covering does not apply to a child under the age of 11 unless flying to the USA. For flights to and from the USA all children aged two and over are required to wear a mask.
- Only children under two and unaccompanied minors are exempt from the mask requirements.
- Note that all passengers are allowed a 12oz bottle of liquid hand sanitizer, through U.S. checkpoints. International security allowances may vary.
- While we continue to encourage customers to bring their own face covering when traveling, supplies will be available for customers who need them.
- We’re paring down our onboard food and beverage options in an effort to reduce physical touch points between customers and employees.
- Pillows and blankets will continue to be available on long-haul international flights.
- We have temporarily consolidated our Delta Sky Club operations, discontinued shower service and scaled back our food and beverage options.
- Pack light if bringing a carry-on bag. To reduce touchpoints on board, our crew members are unable to assist customers placing bags in overhead bins.
- Delta is testing the distribution of customer care kits, available at all Delta ticket counters and gates starting June 5. The kits will offer a hand sanitizer wipe, a mask and an informational card that details how the airline is transforming the industry standard of clean.
The following temporary changes will be implemented on all Delta-operated flights through September 30, 2020:
- Blocking middle seats in all cabins on all aircraft, and blocking select aisle seats in aircraft with 2×2 seating configurations.
- Reducing the total number of passengers
- Modifying our boarding process to board by row, starting from the rear of the aircraft to the front.
Usage is strongly encouraged in high-traffic areas, including security lines and restrooms. People unable to keep a face covering in place, including children, are exempt, along with those who have trouble wearing a mask due to an underlying medical condition.
Covid-19 Travel Guide: https://www.easyjet.com/en/fly-with-confidence
Covid-19 FAQs: https://www.easyjet.com/en/policy/biosecurity-faqs
- Face masks must be worn at the airport, at the gate when boarding the aircraft, and throughout the flight.
- Airport facilities for food and drink may also be limited during this time, however you’ll find restrooms where you can wash your hands with plenty of soap and water, along with hand sanitiser located around the airport.
- Customers can bring their own food and non-alcoholic drinks onboard.
- Once onboard, you’ll need to stow your own cabin baggage and close the overhead lockers yourself.
- Our crew will be managing use of the toilet facilities.
- Initially, there will be no Bistro or Boutique service onboard, but drinking water will be available on request.
Rules for Masks:
Only children under the age of six, and those with a valid medical reason supported by a letter from a medical practitioner are exempt.
Covid-19 Travel Guide:https://www.emirates.com/ph/english/help/your-safety/
- When you enter Emirates Terminal 3 in Dubai you’ll need to wear a face mask. You don’t have to wear gloves, but it is recommended.
- We’ll give you a complimentary travel hygiene kit containing gloves, a face mask, antibacterial wipes and a hand sanitiser.
- Make sure you pack everything into your checked-in bags. Cabin baggage is currently restricted to a laptop bag, handbag, briefcase, or baby items only.
- From 1 July, we’ll reopen our Business Class Lounge on Concourse B at Dubai International airport for First Class, Business Class and eligible Emirates Skywards customers. Our other lounges in Dubai and around the world remain closed for the time being.
- We’re boarding the aircraft in smaller groups from the last row to the first
Rules for Masks:
Last updated: 7 March 2021. You must wear a cloth or medical mask throughout Dubai International airport, during boarding, throughout your flight, and as you leave the aircraft. Children under 6 years old and customers who have certain medical conditions do not have to wear a mask.
Due to local government regulations, only medical face masks are accepted on flights from Dubai to Germany, France, and Austria.
If for medical reasons you’re unable to wear a mask throughout your entire journey, you need to complete a Medical Information Form (MEDIF)before your flight.
This applies to:
Customers with the following cognitive, intellectual or sensory conditions
- Parkinson’s disease
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Down syndrome
- Developmental delay
- Autism spectrum condition
Customers who require supplemental oxygen or have the following respiratory conditions:
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
- Heart failure
- Cystic fibrosis
From Customer Services Representative: We expect parents to encourage their children to wear a mask for extra protection. Flights to/from the USA all passengers aged two and above are required to wear a mask.
Covid-19 Travel Guide: https://www.jet2.com/en/flights/safe-travel/in-the-air
- Passengers will need to keep their face mask on throughout the whole flight but you can take it off temporarily so that you can eat and drink comfortably. Just be careful your mask doesn’t touch any surfaces when you take it off.
- Face masks need to cover your mouth and nose and should be either a protective or medical-style mask, or a fitted face covering. Coverings such as scarves, snoods, balaclavas or any similar items aren’t acceptable for travel.
- It’s a good idea to stock up on masks before you travel as it’s recommended you change them every four hours. Plus, you’ll need to wear a mask for your whole return journey too.
- No hand sanitizer is available on board, so do bring your own.
- Toilets will be open to use as normal. Please wait safely in your seat until one’s free rather than queuing in the aisles. If you need any special assistance, just ask one of our friendly cabin crew who’ll be happy to help.
- Cabin crew to warm your baby’s bottle and food for you as normal. Our crew will be washing their hands regularly anyway, but they’ll wash them again just before handling your baby’s bottle and food.
- The inflight menu is still available. You’ll be able to choose onboard or you can keep things more contact free by pre-paying for your in-flight food before you take off.
Covid-19 Travel Guide: https://www.jetblue.com/safety
- Since May 2020 all customers must wear face coverings (including scarves, bandanas or other forms of face protection) during travel. This includes during check-in, boarding, in flight, and deplaning.
- Customers will now board by row starting from the back of the aircraft as opposed to our standard group boarding process.
- In addition, customers will be asked to remain seated upon arrival until the row in front of them has completely cleared before deplaning.
- Hand sanitizer is widely available for both crewmember and customer use in our airport terminals. If requested, we also have disinfectant wipes available for customer use on board our aircraft.
- Middle seats are blocked for purchase on our larger aircraft, and most aisle seats are blocked for purchase on our smaller aircraft.
- In our Core experience, complimentary food and beverage service will continue, but will be limited.
- In our Mint experience, there will be pre-packaged fresh meals and single-serving beverages available.
- We’ve temporarily suspended sales of buy-onboard products like beer, wine, liquor, EatUp Boxes, EatUp Café, pillows, blankets and earbuds.
- The Pantry, our free inflight snack bar, will not be available on those flights that usually have it.
Rules for Masks:
From a Customer Service Representative: We have a blog post with details on our Safety from the Ground Up program — http://blog.jetblue.com/coronavirus/ – Young children who are not able to maintain a face covering are exempt from this requirement.
Covid-19 Travel Guide: https://www.jetstar.com/au/en/fly-well
- Information sent to you before you fly, so you know what to expect
- Contactless check-in (either online or via our mobile App) is recommended
- A Fly Well pack will be provided containing a mask and sanitising wipes
- You’ll be asked to limit movement around cabin, once seated
- Modified inflight catering to minimise touchpoints for crew and customers
- Food and beverages will only be available when pre-paid up to 24 hours before departure, no sales will be made on board.
Rules for Masks:
From a Customer Services Representative: Wearing masks is not mandatory from a safety point of view, they are only recommended for everyone’s peace of mind. You can also bring your own mask if you’d prefer. You can check this for further details link https://www.jetstar.com/au/en/fly-well
Covid-19 Travel Guide:
- Contactless check-in (either online or via our mobile App) is recommended
- Self-service Bag Drop is strongly encouraged
- On entering the lounge, you may be asked to provide your contact details as part of COVID-19 traceability requirements
- Simplified service – for the time being we’ve reduced our food and beverage offering and removed inflight entertainment.
- You’ll be provided with a Fly Well pack containing a mask and sanitising wipes.
- Temporary removal of inflight magazines (available digitally)
- All Qantas Meeting Rooms are closed until further notice.
- All Qantas Valet locations are closed until further notice.
Rules for Masks:
While masks are not mandatory from a safety point of view, they are recommended to be worn for everyone’s peace-of-mind. You can also bring your own mask if you’d prefer.
Covid-19 Travel Guide:https://www.ryanair.com/gb/en/useful-info/Coronavirus-covid-19
- You may be required to have your temperature checked at the airport, prior to security. If you do not pass this temperature check you will not be permitted to travel on public health grounds.
- It will be mandatory to wear a face mask/covering at all times in the airport and on board your flight.
- Failure to comply with these measures will result in passengers not being permitted to travel on public health grounds.
- All Ryanair aircraft are fitted with HEPA air filters (High Efficiency Particulate Arrestors), which remove particles in the air, down to the size of microscopic bacteria and virus clusters with an efficiency of better than 99.99% and interior surfaces are disinfected every night with chemicals, which are effective for over 24 hours.
- From 1 June 20, Ryanair cabin crew will wear face masks/coverings and a limited inflight service will be offered of pre-packaged snacks and drinks, but no cash sales.
- Queuing for toilets will also be prohibited on board although toilet access will be made available to individual passengers upon request.
Rules for Masks: See their terms and conditions. However, they may refuse to carry you or your baggage In light of the COVID-19 outbreak, this is especially the case if you refuse to undergo temperature checks at the airport or if you refuse to wear a face mask during boarding or on-board our aircraft. Children under 12 do not need to wear face masks. If you suffer from a medical condition that prevents you from wearing a face mask you are exempted from the face mask obligation on provision of a medical certificate attesting your condition.
Exemptions to face coverings: Children under 12 do not need to wear face masks. If you suffer from a medical condition that prevents you from wearing a face mask you are exempted from the face mask obligation on provision of a medical certificate attesting your condition.
Covid-19 Travel Guide: https://www.southwest.com/promise/
Covid-19 FAQs: https://www.southwest.com/promise/#accordion-faqs
- All passengers unless under the age of two, must wear a face mask.
- Masks must fit snuggly under the chin, with no mesh fabrics.
- Hand sanitizer is available at the check-in kiosks, ticket counters, and gates. Wipes will be available for Customers onboard.
- We have modified our boarding process to promote physical-distancing. We are now boarding in groups of 10 and only on one side of our boarding poles to help Customers spread out.
- Middle seats open through at least September 30 to provide Customers more personal space onboard
- Customers can pick their seat—if you’re traveling together, you’re welcome to sit together.
- Face coverings are required at the airport and while traveling. Customers will be required to wear a face covering in order to board the plane. It is highly encouraged to bring your own hand sanitizer and face covering. If you forget your face covering at home, a mask will be available for you
- We are serving water and a snack mix on flights over 250 miles, when available. Straws are available on request. For all other flights, snack and beverage service is suspended until further notice to limit close interactions.
Rules for Masks:
Exemptions to face coverings: Young children under two only.
From a Customer Service Representative. We definitely understand that face coverings and little ones may not mix for a full day of travel. Face covering exemptions are available for young children, those with medical conditions preventing face coverings, and those with disabilities who may not be able to put on/take off a face covering on their own.
If you’d like to see this in writing on our website (for piece of mind), please visit: https://www.southwest.com/promise/. Under the “Where you come in” section, there’s information about the exemptions.
Covid-19 Travel Guide: https://www.tui.co.uk/destinations/info/our-holiday-promise
Covid-19 FAQs: https://www.tui.co.uk/destinations/info/coronavirus-faqs
- Everyone over six years old needs to wear a face mask on our flights. You’ll need to bring your own, and make sure you have enough to allow you to change your mask every four hours.
- Our crew won’t be able to help you put luggage in the overhead lockers, so try to keep hand luggage to a minimum – ideally it should be small enough to fit underneath the seat in front of you.
- Be prepared to use cash a lot less often.
Rules for Masks:
Everyone over six years old needs to wear a face mask on our flights. You’ll need to bring your own, and make sure you have enough to allow you to change your mask every four hours. TUI have not currently updated their site about the new federal regulations for flights to the USA ( Sanford for TUI) but the new law currently affects every airline flying into and out of the USA- meaning all children aged 2 and over must wear a mask to fly on TUI when flying to or from the USA.
Covid-19 Travel Guide: https://flywith.virginatlantic.com/gb/en/news/coronavirus.html
- One main meal service delivered with juices and soft drinks
- Orange juice and water services available throughout your flight
- We will provide a personal Health Pack for the wellbeing and comfort of all our customers, which will contain medical grade face masks as a requirement to be worn onboard, surface wipes and hand gel.
Rules for Masks & exemptions
There are some exemptions that apply to the wearing of face masks or face coverings:
1. If you cannot put on, wear, or remove a face covering without severe distress, or due to any physical or mental illness or impairment, or disability (within the meaning of section 6 of the Equality Act 2010)
2. If you are travelling with, or providing assistance to, another person who relies on lip reading to communicate
3. Children 11 and under unless you are travelling to/from the US*
From the Virgin website,
* All travellers to/from the US aged 2 and over must wear a face mask at all times in the airport and onboard. The same exemptions apply. If you believe you are exempt from wearing a face mask or face covering, you must contact and notify our Special Assistance team at least 48 hours before you are due to travel. You can contact us https://flywith.virginatlantic.com/gb/en/contact-forms.html or via email at Special.Assistance@fly.virgin.com. Please have your booking reference to hand when you contact us.”
From a Customer Service Representative: Ideally, we would like children to wear a mask, as it is to protect them as well as other passengers and crew. However, kids being kids this may not be possible for such long periods however if they can wear them where possible that would be great.
General mask wearing advice for the flight.
- Face masks should be replaced after being worn for 4 hours, if not advised otherwise by the face mask manufacturer, or when they become wet or soiled.
- Make sure you have enough face masks for all the family for the entire duration of their journey and allow for delays.
Where can I find child sized masks?
Below links may contain affiliate links.
- Amazon has child sized masks
- Also ask on local Facebook groups as many people are making child appealing pattens.
- This USA store has reusable and disposable child masks
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