Face Mask Requirements for Kids on Planes During COVID-19 [2021]

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If you are planning on traveling in the near future, you should prepare to be required to wear a face mask when at the airport and on an airplane. Even with a vaccine being distributed, it is likely that face coverings will be mandatory for the foreseeable future.

Although wearing a mask has become quite common due to the coronavirus (COVID-19), not everyone is comfortable wearing them — especially children.

As of February 2, 2021, by executive order, all passengers over the age of 2 must wear masks when boarding, disembarking, and throughout the flight.

Here is what you need to know when it comes to face masks and flying with children.

Airline Face Mask Requirements for Kids (Overview)

AirlineFace Mask Required?Minimum AgeFlexible Policy for Young Children?
Air CanadaYes2Yes
Air FranceYes11Yes
Alaska AirlinesYes2No
American AirlinesYes2No
British AirwaysYes11Yes
Delta Air LinesYes2Yes
EmiratesYes6Yes
Etihad AirwaysYes6Yes
Frontier AirlinesYes2No
Hawaiian AirlinesYes2No
JetBlueYes2No
LATAMYes2Yes
Qatar AirwaysYes6Yes
Southwest AirlinesYes2No
Spirit AirlinesYes2No
United AirlinesYes2No
Virgin AtlanticYes6Yes
WestJetYes6Yes

U.S. Airline Face Mask Requirements

As mentioned, there is no federal mandate, but the CDC has recommended that children above the age of 2 use face masks to help stop the spread of the coronavirus, despite the WHO recommending masks only for children over the age of 5.

All airlines in the U.S. have essentially followed roughly the same path and are requiring any passenger over the age of 2 to wear a face covering.

There are some small details between each policy that may impact your decision when it comes to flying with kids during COVID-19. Let’s look at the policies of some of the bigger carriers in the U.S.

Hot Tip: Traveling with kids during the coronavirus pandemic can be complicated. Our guide offers simple tips to keep you and your family healthy before, during, and after your trip.

Alaska Airlines

Alaska Airlines crew with masks
Image Credit: Alaska Airlines

Alaska Airlines follows the CDC guidelines very closely — if you are over the age of 2, you must wear a mask.

If you are unable to wear a mask throughout the airport and for the duration of the flight for any reason, you will not be able to fly with the airline.

A cloth mask or face covering is required from check-in to boarding and deplaning. Only while briefly eating or drinking is not wearing a mask permitted.

American Airlines

American Airlines passenger and crew with masks
Image Credit: American Airlines

American Airlines requires a face covering for all passengers except for children under the age of 2. Passengers who refuse to wear a face mask may be denied boarding and future flights.

According to American Airlines, a face covering can be “a mask or any secured cloth that covers your nose and mouth and fits snugly under the chin.”

Delta Air Lines

Woman wearing a face mask flying Delta Air Lines
Image Credit: Delta Air Lines

Delta had the most child (and parent)-friendly face mask policy amongst American carriers before the government mandate that everyone over the age of 2 must wear a mask.

Face masks were required for all passengers, however, children under the age of 2 and “young children who cannot maintain a face covering are exempt from the mask requirement.” That phrasing has now been removed, so parents will need to prepare their young children.

Alternatively, Delta also has one of the strictest policies when it comes to adults using face masks. If a passenger has a medical exemption, they must arrive at the airport early and pass a “Clearance-to-Fly” test.

Adults need to be aware that “any false claims of a disability or health condition to obtain an exemption from wearing a mask or face covering may result in the suspension of travel privileges on any Delta flight for the duration of the mask/face covering requirement.”

Frontier Airlines

Frontier flight attendant wearing a mask
Image Credit: Frontier

Frontier has a relatively strict face masks requirement for children — only children under the age of 2 are exempt.

Face coverings must be snug and cover both the mouth and nose. Bandanas, mesh face coverings, and masks with vents are not allowed.

Although face shields are permitted, they must be worn with a face mask.

Hawaiian Airlines

Woman boarding Hawaiian airlines plane
Image Credit: Hawaiian Airlines

Flying to Hawaii normally requires a lot of planning and now COVID-19 testing.

Passengers are also required to wear face coverings during boarding, through the duration of the flight, and while deplaning at their destination. Face coverings with vents or that are made out of mesh are not allowed.

Only children under the age of 2 are exempt from these rules.

Hot Tip: If you are flying to Hawaii soon, you can find out what is required for quarantine and approved COVID-19 testing here

JetBlue

JetBlue Flight Attendant Wearing a Mask
Image Credit: JetBlue

Although JetBlue generally is a family favorite, the airline doesn’t differentiate itself when it comes to its child face mask policy.

According to its “Safety from the Ground Up” program, passengers 2 years and older must wear a face covering over their nose and mouth for the duration of the flight, including check-in, boarding, and deplaning.

In addition to that, personal face/body tents or pods, or personal air purifiers/refreshers are not allowed.

Face shields may be worn in addition to, but not in the place of face masks.

Southwest Airlines

Southwest crew welcoming child
Image Credit: Southwest

Southwest Airlines joins the ranks as one of the airlines with stricter face mask policies.

All passengers are required to wear a face mask during travel except for children under the age of 2 — with no exceptions.

Masks must cover the nose and mouth and must be secure under the chin.

Spirit Airlines

Spirit Airline Crew with masks on
Image Credit: Spirit

Out of all of the airlines listed here, Spirit Airlines takes the cake when it comes to strict face mask policies.

All passengers 2 years and older must wear a face mask for the duration of the flight, including during boarding and deplaning with no medical exceptions allowed.

Masks may be briefly removed while eating or drinking but must be placed back on immediately after.

As with the other airlines, bandanas and face masks with vents or valves are not allowed. Face shields can be worth with, but not instead of a face mask.

United Airlines

Children flying United with Masks in Economy from Newark to Boston
Masks on! Image Credit: Chris Hassan

United Airlines has a pretty straightforward face mask policy — all travelers over the age of 2 are required to wear a face covering. As expected, masks with vents are not allowed and face shields may only be worn in addition to a mask.

Refusal to wear a face-covering can get you banned from future United flights.

International Airline Face Mask Requirements

If you are flying an airline that is based outside of the U.S., you may find that the face mask policy for children may be a bit more understanding. However, if you are departing from the U.S. on one of these carriers, you should expect to be required to follow the CDCs requirements of mask usage for anyone 2 and over.

While we won’t cover every foreign airline, here are some of the more popular options you may find yourself flying.

Air Canada

Air Canada Pilots with masks on
Image Credit: Air Canada

On the Air Canada website, the airline claims that Transport Canada requires all passengers over the age of 2 to wear a mask. However, according to the Transport Canada website, that is not true. Masks are only required for children above the age of 6 and are recommended for children between the ages of 2 and 5 — but not mandatory.

That being said, you should expect Air Canada to enforce the policy for all passengers above the age of 2 to be safe.

Face coverings with vents, bandanas, and neck gaiters are not allowed.

Air France

Female passenger on Air France flight
Image Credit: Air France

Air France has a relatively strict face mask policy as they require passengers to wear specific surgical masks or an FFP1, FFP2, or FFP3 type mask, without an exhaust valve. Fabric masks are not allowed.

Children under the age of 11 are not required to wear a face mask. Although masks are recommended for children between the ages of 3 and 11, they will not be denied boarding for not wearing one — a far cry from the policies of American carriers.

British Airways

British Airways girl wearing a mask in business class
Image Credit: British Airways

Parents flying on British Airways will be happy to know that children under the age of 11 are not required to wear a face mask while traveling.

The only other mention of face masks for children is that they are not recommended for children under the age of 3.

Policies like this may influence your decision on which carrier to fly on your next trip across the pond.

Emirates

Emirates Travel Hygiene Kit
Image Credit: Emirates

Emirates has consistently been at the forefront of safety when it comes to traveling during COVID-19.

The airline was the first to offer coronavirus travel insurance and COVID-19 tests are readily available for passengers upon arrival in Dubai.

When it comes to passengers onboard, hygiene kits and provided and face masks are required for most, however, children under the age of 6 are exempt from this requirement.

Etihad Airways

Etihad Crew in PPE Mask and Gown
Image Credit: Etihad

Etihad also a very robust system for traveling during COVID-19. In addition to mandatory testing for passengers over the age of 12, face masks are required (and provided) on board.

Fortunately, the airline understands that small children may not be comfortable wearing a face mask, so they are only recommended for children from age 2 to 5. However, face masks are mandatory for children 6 and older.

LATAM

LATAM crew wearing face masks at the airport
Image Credit: LATAM

When you first start reading LATAM’s face mask policy, it comes across as very strict as it is very clear that no passengers will be allowed to board without wearing an approved face covering.

However, after clicking through a few levels you will see that masks are not required for passengers between the ages of 0 to 2 years old, and that “the use of masks will be made more flexible in the case of minors between the ages of 2-11 years.”

Face masks can be of the surgical variety or fabric as long as they securely cover both the nose and mouth.

Qatar Airways

Qatar Protective Kit
Image Credit: Qatar

Qatar certainly delivers when it comes to onboard PPE. The airline even provides safety kits, including face masks and face shields which are required for most passengers throughout the flight.

However, children under the age of 6 are not required to wear a face mask and shield during their trip.

Virgin Atlantic

Virgin Atlantic Health Pack face mask
Image Credit: Virgin Atlantic

Virgin Atlantic does a good job when it comes to onboard safety. Every passenger will receive their own Health Pack that includes hand sanitizer, surface wipes, and a face mask.

All passengers over the age of 6 are required to wear a face mask throughout the flight. And of course, if you have a younger child that wants to wear one, they are welcome to as well.

WestJet

WestJet Agent and Passenger wearing masks
Image Credit: WestJet

In refreshing fashion, our neighbors to the North understand that requiring small children to wear masks may not be feasible all of the time.

Transport Canada requires face masks for children starting at the age of 6, and only encourages the use of masks for children between the ages of 2 and 5.

As with American carriers, masks with vents or valves are not allowed.

Best Face Coverings for Kids

Nowadays there are countless options from almost every brand when it comes to face masks for kids. Here are some options to help make your search a little easier!

Face Masks

Reusable Disney Pixar Face Masks

Disney Pixar Face Masks
Image Credit: Disney

Cloth Face Masks 4-Pack – Pixar

If your little ones are fans of Disney, they may have an easier time wearing a mask with their favorite character on it.

This pack of 4 is available on ShopDisney.com for $19.99.

Disposable Kids’ Face Masks

50-Count Kids Disposable 3-Ply Face Masks

These disposable face masks are great for kids who tend to lose their masks and for parents who don’t want to worry about another thing to wash.

With a variety of patterns and colors, 1 box can satisfy many kids for only $12.99.

Face Shields

Comfortable and Cute Face Shields

Kids Cartoon Face Protective Shield

Face shields can add an extra layer of protection for adults and children, especially when boarding and deplaning.

This 6-pack of cartoon-themed face shields is available on Amazon for $13.99.

A Hat for Him or Her

Kids Bucket Hat with Face Shield

This bucket hat style is a great option for kids who get irritated with the traditional face shield pressing against their forehead.

It’s available in multiple colors and patterns on Amazon for $15.99.

5 Quick Tips to Help Kids Wear Face Masks

This pandemic has made it very clear that even adults have a hard time wearing masks, so it is no surprise that some children may be a little hesitant as well.

Here are some tips to help your kids feel comfortable wearing a face mask so you don’t find yourself being escorted off of a plane.

1. Talk to Them

Explain to your children the importance of wearing a mask and why wearing them in public (and on a plane) will help keep them and their neighbors safe from germs.

Let them know that they will be able to take a mask break while they are eating and drinking and when they leave the airport so that they have something to look forward to.

2. Practice at Home

Doing anything for the first time is always more difficult with kids. By practicing wearing a mask at home, or on short trips outside of the house, kids can start to get used to the mask and realize that it’s really not that bad.

Try introducing masks during playtime with toys and dolls as a way to show how to properly wear one.

3. Make it Fun

There are so many colors, patterns, and styles of masks available that there is something for everyone — even the pickiest of kids!

Whether it is a pink mask to match a ballet tutu or a superhero mask to help protect the family, adding some personalization can go a long way.

4. Get the Right Size

It doesn’t matter if you get the coolest face mask available, if it doesn’t fit and isn’t comfortable your child will spend the whole time adjusting it and will eventually grow tired of it.

By picking a mask that is the proper size (and soft fabric) you will increase your chances of having your little one wear it for longer periods of time.

5. Rules are Rules

Rules are rules and unfortunately, some U.S. carriers have made it very clear that there is no flexibility when it comes to who has to wear a mask.

If you have tried introducing a face mask to your child and they are still refusing, it may make more sense to delay your trip or drive if possible.

Final Thoughts

American Girl Doll in United Boeing 787 Dreamliner Polaris Business Class
I guess we need a mask for her American Girl doll! Image Credit: Chris Hassan

Unfortunately, at least for the near future, it is very likely that face masks will be required when flying, and that includes children as well.

It is also unfortunate that most U.S.-based airlines (and the government) have such strict policies when it comes to young children wearing masks.

As parents, we know all too well that when a young kid doesn’t want to do something, it is almost impossible to get them to do it. And if you want to factor in Murphy’s Law, this is likely to happen when boarding a plane.

Until recently, Delta was the most understanding when it came to enforcing face masks on children over the age of 2, which was a factor when searching for flights with kids. But with the recent government mandate, all airlines are now following the same rules.

So, unless your little traveler is already comfortable wearing a mask, it is probably a good idea to start training!

Safe travels!


All information and content provided by Upgraded Points is intended as general information and for educational purposes only, and should not be interpreted as medical advice or legal advice. For more information, see our Medical & Legal Disclaimers.


Frequently asked questions

Do children need to wear face masks on planes?

All U.S. based carriers require children 2 and older to wear a face mask while boarding, flying, and deplaning. Some carriers, such as Delta, are more flexible when it comes to young children refusing to wear a mask, but other airlines may remove your family from the flight if kids cannot comply.

Are babies required to wear face masks on planes?

No, babies and infants under the age of 2 are not required to wear a face mask when flying a U.S.-based airline. After the age of 2, some airlines can be very strict when it comes to face coverings and compliance, regardless of age.

What is Delta's face mask policy for kids?

Delta is one of the most lenient when it comes to enforcing face mask requirements for young children. The airline policy states “young children who cannot maintain a face covering are exempt from the mask requirement.” So you don’t need to worry about getting kicked off of your flight if your toddler refuses to wear a mask.

Can my child wear a face shield instead of a mask on a plane?

If you are flying an airline that requires your child to wear a face mask, a face shield may be used in addition to but not in place of a face mask.

Chris Hassan

About Chris Hassan

Chris is from Boston and is currently living in Rio de Janeiro with his wife, two kids, and their dog, Shelby. When Chris was in college, he spent a semester abroad studying hotel and business management in Switzerland. That is where he caught the travel bug and met his wife. Quite a successful trip!

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