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Flying: Will Face Masks be Compulsory?

Now that COVID travel restrictions are beginning to ease around the world, we can begin to think about flying as a possibility again soon. However, it is clear that some things will have to change to ensure everybody’s safety. One question on every traveller’s lips: “will I need to wear a face mask to fly?”

Do I need a face mask to fly?

From the 15th of June everyone on public transport and planes must wear a face covering. This is in line with advice from the World Health Organisation.

What is the difference between a face mask and face covering?

A face mask typically refers to a one-size manufactured item designed to fit over the nose and mouth of the wearer. These may be single-use or re-usable, typically designed for applications in healthcare, construction or manufacturing, among others.

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On the other hand, a face-covering tends to mean anything that can be used to fully cover the nose and mouth. A fabric or textile item is ideal, meaning it can be improvised from existing items. Scarves or small sheets are perfect but they can also be made by following some simple steps – more on this below.

Are face masks compulsory on all planes?

The government advise that face masks are not compulsory. Face coverings, on the other hand, are required on all flights in England. Social distancing is not possible in the tight conditions involved in aircraft travel, making face coverings important.

Having said that, some airlines will stipulate that face masks be worn. They will either advise that passengers bring their own, or that the airline crew will provide them with one prior to boarding. Some airlines will include them in a personal health kit along with non-latex disposable gloves and sanitised cleaning wipes.

We have collated the advice from the main airlines below, although please bear in mind that much will depend on:

  • Regulations at your destination;
  • Any technical features in the aircraft;
  • Any individual risk factors identified by your airline.


Are Face Masks Mandatory?

British AirwaysYes - you must bring masks - one for every 4 hours of the journey
EasyjetYes - you must bring your own. If you do not have one, you will be unable to board.
EmiratesYes - you must bring your own, although a hygiene kit will be provided on-board containing a spare one.
Jet2Yes - you must bring masks - one for every 4 hours of the journey
KLMYes - you must bring your own
NorwegianYes - you must bring your own
Qatar AirwaysYes - you must bring your own, face shield will be provided and must be worn if travelling in economy class.
RyanairYes - you must bring your own
TuiYes - you must bring your own - one for every 4 hours of the journey
Virgin AtlanticYes - masks provided by the crew as part of a health pack
Wizz AirYes - you must bring your own

The information in the table above is correct at time of publishing. However, it is best to check in advance with your airline as this situation can change quite quickly.

What type of face mask do I need to fly?

A face mask itself may not be necessary, but even if your airline does not insist on a face mask every passenger must wear a face covering to safeguard the collective health of all travellers. These are simple and inexpensive and can be improvised using readily available clothing or fabrics. They can also be made from surplus materials at home, as this guide from the BBC shows.

The picture below shows a simple face-covering made by one of our Free Spirit team.

home made face covering for flights

Single use paper masks are also acceptable. Although when you wear them do ensure that they fully cover the mouth and nose with no gaps.

Is it mandatory to wear face masks in airports?

It is not mandatory to wear face masks in airport areas. However, the government’s advice as of the 15th June is to wear face coverings in airports wherever possible, especially if it is difficult to maintain social distancing.

Who is exempt from wearing a face mask?

People who have disabilities or medical conditions that cause breathing difficulties will be exempt from wearing face masks.

  • Anyone with a physical disability or impairment, who may not be able to wear a face covering.
  • Anyone with a mental or physical condition, for whom wearing a face covering would cause distress. For example, making a child with autism wear a face covering may cause heightened anxiety.
  • Anyone with a breathing condition, such as COPD or Cystic fibrosis, for whom a face covering would cause further impairment of respiration. However, the government is currently shielding people in these groups from the public for their own protection.

Combined with regular hand washing and social distancing, face coverings are an effective method of ensuring safety while travelling.

Which countries need me to wear a face mask?

Please be aware that other countries will have different regulations on face masks. For example, in Austria, it is illegal to wear anything that conceals facial features. Depending on where you are travelling, check with the FCDO website to ensure you do not get caught out when you land at your destination.


If you do decide to purchase masks, please ensure that they are nonsurgical or non respirator types, as these are still in short supply and in high demand by frontline staff.

Please note that the information in this post relates to English regulations. If you live in Scotland, Wales, or Northern Ireland there may be some differences to the details given above.

Read more COVID travel insurance advice here.

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