On April 18, 2022, after a federal judge in Florida struck down the U.S. federal transportation mask mandate, all of the major U.S. airlines lifted their pandemic-era mask requirements for domestic flights.
Masking rules that were originally established to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 in-flight have also been relaxed in Europe. On May 16, 2022, 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 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 in South America.
Travelers should always double-check the requirements for the airline and route they are flying as policies can and do change.
Here is what travelers need to know about masking on flights in the United States and abroad.
These U.S. airlines do not require masks
All of the major U.S. airlines have dropped their mask requirements for crew and passengers on domestic flights following the April 2022 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.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.” 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.
Most European airlines do not require masks—Iberia is an exeception
As mentioned above, some European carriers and countries still have mask requirements in place. Masks could still be 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 Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, France, Greece, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal, Switzerland, and Turkey. Masks are still required on flights between Ireland and Austria, and between Ireland 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 optional on all Icelandair flights.ITA Airways: The Italian airline does not require passengers to wear masks.KLM: 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 no longer requiring masks. “Mask wearing may still be mandatory at some airports and on some selected flights. Please find out about the regulations at the airports on your journey,” Lufthansa advises passengers.SAS: The Scandinavian airline no longer requires masks on board with the exception of flights to and from China.TAP Air Portugal: 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 now optional on Aeromexico flights.Air Canada: Canada’s national carrier no longer requires face masks on its flights. “Although Transport Canada has lifted the mask requirement, all passengers and flight crew are recommended to wear high-quality and well-fitted masks throughout their journey,” the carrier states.Air New Zealand: 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.Cathay Pacific: The Hong Kong-based airline still requires that masks be worn at all times inflight with the exception of when passengers are eating or drinking.Emirates: Masks are optional on all Emirates flights. “If you are traveling from or transiting through Dubai International, the mask rules of your destination will apply throughout your journey,” Emirates states.LATAM: Whether masks are required is dependent on the Latin American country the flight is flying to and from. “Mask use is optional on LATAM flights, except for domestic flights within Brazil, Colombia, and Ecuador, as well as international flights operated by LATAM Airlines Brazil, where it is still mandatory,” LATAM Group explains.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 not mandatory unless 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.
Michelle Baran Michelle Baran is the senior travel news editor at AFAR where she oversees breaking news, travel intel, pandemic coverage, airline, cruise, and consumer travel news. Baran joined AFAR in August 2018 after an 11-year run as a senior editor and reporter at leading travel industry newspaper Travel Weekly.