Families may now be travelling abroad for a week or two in the sun during the summer holidays, with many getting used to wearing face masks when navigating their way through the airport and while on the plane.
But do children have to wear face masks on flights? Here’s what you need to know.
Where do I need to wear a face mask?
Face masks became compulsory to wear on public transport in England on 15 June, and then mandatory in shops in England, including clothing stores and supermarkets, from 24 July.
In Scotland, face coverings became compulsory on public transport on 22 June and in shops on 10 July.
In Northern Ireland, face coverings became mandatory on public transport on 10 July, and the same rule came into effect in Wales from 27 July.
Children under 11, those who can't wear a covering without suffering severe distress, or who have difficulty using one due to a physical or mental disability, are exempt from wearing face coverings.
However, rules vary when it comes to air travel, with different airlines having their own stipulations on the ages at which children need to wear a mask.
Do children have to wear face masks on planes?
Airlines have differing rules when it comes to children wearing masks.
Easyjet said, “In line with the guidance, all passengers including children aged six and over will be required to wear a mask.”
However, if you are unable to wear a face mask for medical reasons then you will be exempt from doing so. This is “as long as you have a medical exemption letter from a doctor stating that you cannot wear a face mask (which must be available on request for airport staff and crew to see) and also that you are fit to fly.”
If you are flying with Ryanair, then children under 12 do not need to wear face masks.
Again, if you suffer from a medical condition that prevents you from wearing a face mask then “you are exempted from the face mask obligation on provision of a medical certificate attesting your condition.”
Jet2 states that “everyone needs to wear a face mask at all times while travelling, apart from children under six years old and people that can’t wear a mask for medical reasons.”
The current advice from British Airways says, “We require all customers to wear a face mask at all times in the airport and on board. As a guide, a face mask could last up to four hours, so please make sure that you bring enough for the duration of your trip.”
Travellers will also be asked to remove their face masks for any passport checks but will be advised to do so my members of staff.
If travelling with TUI, then everyone over the age of six years old needs to wear a face mask during their flight. The tour operator asks that you bring your own masks, which you will need to change every four hours. However, if you have a medical condition which exempts you from wearing a mask, then you won’t need to.
What are the exemptions?
Gov.uk explains that you do not need to wear a face covering if you have a legitimate reason not to.
- not being able to put on, wear or remove a face covering because of a physical or mental illness or impairment, or disability
- if putting on, wearing or removing a face covering will cause you severe distress
- if you are travelling with or providing assistance to someone who relies on lip reading to communicate
- to avoid harm or injury, or the risk of harm or injury, to yourself or others
- to avoid injury, or to escape a risk of harm, and you do not have a face covering with you
- to eat or drink if reasonably necessary
- in order to take medication
- if a police officer or other official requests you remove your face covering
Wearing a face covering doesn’t mean that hygiene measures, and social distancing where possible, shouldn’t be carried out.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) explains, “Masks should be used as part of a comprehensive strategy of measures to suppress transmission and save lives; the use of a mask alone is not sufficient to provide an adequate level of protection against Covid-19.
“You should also maintain a minimum physical distance of at least 1 metre from others, frequently clean your hands and avoid touching your face and mask.”