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

Alaska Airlines crew with child in mask
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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 over their nose and mouth when boarding, disembarking, and throughout their flight. That order has been extended now through January 18, 2022.

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 LinesYes2No
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

Anyone over the age of 2 is required to wear a face mask on commercial flights, buses, and trains in the U.S.

Passengers can briefly lower their masks when eating or drinking but are expected to put their masks back on properly when they are done. Even when sleeping.

At the beginning of the pandemic, airlines were essentially setting their own rules, however, with the executive order, you can expect the same experience with your family no matter which airline you fly 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 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 First Flagship Business Class Miami to Boston kids
Image Credit: Chris Hassan

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 2 layered secured cloth that completely covers your nose and mouth and fits snugly to the sides of your face and under your chin.”

Delta Air Lines

As everyone over the age of 2 must wear a face mask over their nose and mouth “from curb to claim,” parents will need to prepare their young children to wear one during their Delta travels.

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 had strict requirements even before the mandate, and anyone over the age of 2 must wear a mask — no exceptions.

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

Flying to Hawaii normally requires a lot of planning, and now pre-travel COVID-19 testing is part of that procedure.

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 those 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, check our guide to find out what is required for quarantine and approved COVID-19 testing

JetBlue

Although JetBlue generally is a family favorite, the airline has no way to 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 and 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 Airlines requires passengers and crew to follow federal law and 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

Out of all of the airlines listed here, Spirit Airlines was strictest when it came to face coverings — even before it became federal law!

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 worn with, but not instead of a face mask.

United Airlines

TV and Bed on United Boeing 787 Dreamliner Polaris Business Class
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

When flying in Canada (not flying to or from the U.S.) face masks are required for passengers 6 years and older. Face masks are recommended for children between 2 to 6, but if they cannot comfortably keep them on, they can remove them.

For travel to and from the U.S., all passengers 2 and older must wear a face mask.

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

Air France

Air France has a relatively strict face mask policy as it requires 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. Children 3 and under are not recommended to wear a face covering.

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.

That is unless you are flying to or from the U.S. on a BA flight; in that case, children 2 and older are required to wear a mask.

Emirates

Emirates family wearing masks
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 are provided and face masks are required for most, however, children under the age of 6 are exempt from this requirement.

Etihad Airways

Etihad also has a very robust system (Etihad Wellness) 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

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 under 3 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 of fabric as long as they securely cover both the nose and mouth.

Qatar Airways

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

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

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

In a 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.

However, kids ages 2 and older flying WestJet to or from the U.S. will be required to wear a mask.

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, all under $20, 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, like this pack of 4 Pixar masks. Plenty of other options, from superheroes to princesses, are available on ShopDisney.com.

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.

Face Shields

Comfortable and Cute Face Shields

Kids Cartoon Face Protective Shield

This 6-pack of cartoon-themed face shields can add an extra layer of protection for children, especially when boarding and deplaning.

A Hat for Him or Her

Kids Bucket Hat with Face Shield

This bucket hat style, available in multiple colors and patterns, is a great option for kids who get irritated with the traditional face shield pressing against their forehead.

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 in the U.S. 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 ages 2 and older 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 the government mandate, 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. Now all airlines are now following the same rules through January 18, 2022.

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?

Per U.S. federal law, all passengers 2 and older must wear a face mask while flying. Masks may be removed briefly while eating or drinking.

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 in the U.S. After the age of 2, airlines should be strict when it comes to face coverings and compliance, regardless of age.

What is Delta's face mask policy for kids?

While Delta was once one of the most lenient when it came to enforcing face mask requirements for young children, that has changed with the federal mandate — now all passengers 2 and older must wear a mask, no exceptions.

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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1 comment

  1. Krupa Levinson June 12, 2021

    I am about to book a late Sept flight to England from the US and go with a 2.5 year old. Have you heard of parents getting kicked off flights from the US on non-American airlines? I will be flying British Airways.

    I am pretty hopeful that we will be okay when my toddler refuses to wear his mask (it’s not a matter of if, but rather when) for this airline but curious to see if you know of success stories.

    Reply

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