On April 18, after a federal judge in Florida struck down the U.S. federal transportation mask mandate, all of the major U.S. airlines lifted their mask requirements for domestic flights.
Masking rules that were originally established to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 inflight have also been relaxed in Europe. On May 16, a recommendation by the European Union went into effect advising countries to drop the requirement for masking on airplanes and in airports in the EU. However, individual countries and airlines in Europe make their own policies, and masking remains a requirement on some international flights.
Masking is also still required by some airlines that fly to and within countries in Asia, Africa, Oceania, and the Americas.
Travelers should always double-check the requirements for the airline and route they are flying as policies can and do change (sometimes overnight).
Here is what travelers need to know about masking on flights in the United States and abroad.
Which U.S. airlines require masks?
All of the major U.S. airlines have dropped their mask requirements for crew and passengers on domestic flights following the April 18 ruling. These are the updated mask policies for each U.S. airline:
- Alaska Airlines: Masks are optional. Alaska immediately moved to make masks optional on its flights following the April 18 ruling. The carrier is reminding passengers that masks continue to be required on flights to and from Canada.
- American Airlines: Masks are optional. American reminds travelers that face masks might still be required when traveling to or from international destinations that require masking on planes.
- Delta Air Lines: Masks are optional. “Delta employees and customers may continue wearing masks if they so choose,” Delta informs customers.
- JetBlue: Masks are optional.
- Southwest Airlines: Masks are optional. Southwest informs travelers that while federal law no longer requires that masks be worn in the airport or on the airplane, “you’re always welcome to wear a mask while traveling if you prefer to—if you need one at the airport or onboard, we’ll have them ready.” The carrier also reminds its passengers that if some cities or states require masks at the airports, travelers will need to abide by the local jurisdiction’s rules.
- United Airlines: Masks are optional. United Airlines states, “While this means that our employees are no longer required to wear a mask—and no longer have to enforce a mask requirement for most of the flying public—they will be able to wear masks if they choose to do so, as the CDC continues to strongly recommend wearing a mask on public transit.”
Even though masks are no longer required on domestic flights, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) continues to recommend that everyone age two and older wear a well-fitted mask on public transportation and in transportation hubs, including on airplanes and in airports.
“When people properly wear a well-fitting mask or respirator, they protect themselves and those around them, and help keep travel and public transportation safer for everyone,” the CDC stated.
Which European airlines require masks?
As mentioned above, some European countries still have mask requirements in place. Masks remain mandatory on flights to and sometimes from these countries even if a carrier no longer requires masks on other flights.
- Aer Lingus: Masks are optional on flights within Ireland and to and from the U.K., the U.S., and some countries in Europe, including France and Greece. Masks are still required on flights between Ireland and Austria, Belgium, Canada, Germany, and Spain.
- Air France: Masks are recommended (not required) for passengers age six and older and could be required depending on the departure or destination country.
- British Airways: The U.K. carrier is no longer requiring masks with the exception of flights traveling to or from a destination where masking is still mandatory—on those routes British Airways will continue to require masking onboard. BA maintains a convenient chart that indicates whether masks are required inflight and in the terminal for each country it flies to.
- Finnair: Masks are optional unless required by the origin or destination country.
- Iberia: The Spanish carrier still requires masks onboard.
- Icelandair: Face masks are only mandatory on Icelandair flights to and from Canada and Germany, but are optional on all other Icelandair flights to and from Europe, Greenland, and the U.S.
- KLM: Effective May 21, masks are no longer required on most KLM flights. “However, we recommend that you wear a mask during your flight,” the Dutch airline states.
- Lufthansa: The German carrier is still requiring masks for all passengers age six and up.
- SAS: The Scandinavian airline no longer requires masks onboard with the exception of flights to and from China.
- TAP Air Portugal: As of August 27, face masks are no longer required on TAP flights unless the country of origin or the destination country mandates it.
- Virgin Atlantic: Masks are optional on all flights to and from destinations that do not have a mask mandate in place, including between the U.S. and the U.K.
Mask requirements on other international carriers
- Aeromexico: Masks are still required on Aeromexico flights.
- Air Canada: Canada’s national carrier still requires face masks for all travelers age six and older. (Children older than two but less than six years of age who cannot tolerate wearing a mask are exempt.)
- Air New Zealand: Effective September 13, masks are no longer required on Air New Zealand flights unless mandated by the destination country.
- ANA: The Japanese carrier “requests” but does not require that passengers wear masks.
- Emirates: Masks are required for everyone age six and older in the Dubai International Airport and on all Emirates flights.
- LATAM: Whether masks are required is dependent on the Latin American country the flight is flying to and from. The LATAM Group includes operators in Brazil, Colombia, Chile, Ecuador, Paraguay, and Peru. Currently, the use of masks is optional on flights operated by LATAM Airlines Ecuador, LATAM Airlines Paraguay, and LATAM Airlines Brazil.
- Qantas: Masks are no longer required on flights to and within Australia. They are only necessary if required by the destination.
- Singapore Airlines: Per the Asian carrier, “Face masks are not required at Singapore Changi Airport and on board flights, except when traveling to or from destinations that require a face mask.”
- Turkish Airlines: Masks are only mandatory if required by the destination country.
As with flights, the same goes for airports throughout the world—the rules change depending on the destination. Travelers should make sure they are up to date on the masking regulations for the destination(s) they are traveling to. Check the U.S. State Department’s detailed COVID-19 travel information and country-specific advisories, which are updated regularly and include information about mask policies.
This story was originally published in May 2022, and has been updated to include current information.