Face Masks in Airports and Air Travel: What You Need to Know

In this time of COVID-19, there are certainly a lot of things that you have to consider when you have to travel by air, especially this holiday season.



Airport travelers wearing face masks

Source: istockphoto.com


Wearing a mask, social distancing, and practicing good hygiene are essential protective measures while travelling and on public places. These safety and protective measures have definitely become part of the ‘new normal’ for 2020 to reduce and prevent transmission of the novel coronavirus.


Most people are now asking a lot of questions:

  • Is it safe to travel by air?
  • When should I wear a mask?
  • Is the mask needed at the airport?
  • Why should I wear a mask when flying?
  • Do I have to wear a mask throughout my journey?
  • What should I look for in a mask?
  • Is it possible to board a flight to Canada?


If you’re searching for answers to these questions, you’re in the right place. We’ve gathered the latest information every traveler like you needs to know.


Let’s start.


Face Masks and Air Travel in the Time of COVID-19


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Despite the surge in coronavirus cases, people are making plans to travel. Airlines have already seen an uptick in flight bookings for the peak holiday weeks. 


This can be tied to a Harvard study sharing that air travel "is as safe as or substantially safer than the routine activities on the ground" and the risks of getting COVID-19 on a flight are very low.


Airlines are also allowing and reassuring virus-wary travelers and the government that it's safe to fly once again.


In most airports worldwide, passengers and airline employees are required to wear face masks throughout their travel journey. It is strongly recommended that everyone wears a face covering in the airport’s public facilities. This includes the time spent in the airport, while boarding, during in-flight, and upon deplaning.


Airlines have set policies and adopted a number of safety measures ensuring the safety of passengers while at the airport and onboard the plane.


Some airlines have also set pre-flight COVID-19 testing to screen out potentially infected travelers before they board flights.


Face Mask Policies and Requirements in Airports and Air Travel


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Airlines have different ways of enforcing the use of face masks when flying. In general, Canadian airlines like Air Canada and WestJet have mandatory facemask requirements throughout the entire journey. Even budget airlines like Swoop and Flair also require wearing face masks while on board.


Based on the guidance released by the Government of Canada, all travelers are required to wear a removable non-medical mask or face covering to cover their mouth, nose, and chin to prevent the inadvertent spread of COVID-19.


Most premium airlines like Air Canada, Emirates, and Air Transat also provide hygiene kits for travelers onboard. These kits include a travel face mask, antibacterial wipes, sanitizing gel, and gloves.


Wherever you are in the world, it’s best to be prepared to wear face masks when you travel. It’s likely that you need to wear a mask going to and from the airport, while at the airport, and while on the plane.


We also recommend that you check with your airline before booking your flight and before our departure date.


Role of Face Masks in Air Travel


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Wearing face masks throughout the travel journey, from entering the airport for departure to leaving the destination airport is critically important. It lessens the release of infectious particles and reduces the risk of transmission.


According to a study, universal mask compliance throughout the air travel process diminishes the release of infectious particles into the environment.


A face mask that covers your mouth and nose can prevent the potential spread of the coronavirus to your fellow passengers.


When used together with other safety measures, such as increased ventilation with High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filtration in the aircraft, disinfection of surfaces, and social distancing at the airport, these layers of face coverings offer a great deal of protection from acquiring COVID-19.


Ways to Stay Safe throughout Your Journey


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If you have to fly, you can work on minimizing the risks of coronavirus.  There are practical steps you can take to stay healthy while in flight and at the airport.


Let’s go over the best practices.


At The Airport


When you arrive at the airport, you'll be navigating security lines and boarding procedures. For your safety, observe the following:


  1. Wash or sanitize your hands frequently
  2. Maintain your bubble - your distance from others
  3. Wear your mask at all times
  4. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth
  5. Bring your own hand sanitizer to keep your hands clean at all times


When Boarding


The pre-boarding process is a minefield. Keep your face mask on at all times.


When boarding, don't hurry to get in line. It’s best to wait to keep your distance from others. You don't want to risk yourself more when people get crammed in the jet bridge.


Some airlines have adjusted their boarding partners. When it’s time for boarding and disembarking, listen closely to the instructions of the ground and cabin crew. You may be asked to board and disembark differently than before.


On the Plane


Before you sit, consider sanitizing everything around you. This includes your seat belt, tray table, and TV console.


While onboard, you can take off your mask to eat and drink. If it's just a short flight, you can even forgo eating and drinking.


The best thing to do while onboard is to stay in your seat. If you have to use the bathroom, keep your mask on.


And don’t worry about sleeping with a mask on. It’s safe.


Upon Landing


Once the plane landed, don't rush to get off the plane. Take a few minutes to maintain your bubble.


If you’re collecting a bag at the baggage carousel and as you pass through the airport terminals, always maintain distance and keep your masks on.


As you leave the airport and arrive at your destination safely, take a deep, mask-free breath. You’ve earned it.


Important Things You Need to Know


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Travelers have to comply with the requirements of the airlines and policies set by the airport. This starts from the time they enter their departure airport until they leave the airport at their destination.


  1. Check the websites for your departure and arrival airports.
  2. Check with the local health department websites of the cities you’re traveling to.
  3. Know the latest health and safety travel advice from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or the Government of Canada’s website.


Other Safety Measures to Consider


Some airlines have also limited their in-flight food and beverage services to maximize the safety and security of all travelers. So it’s best to bring your own food and drinks if possible.


  1. Always follow social distancing measures wherever you are.
  2. Some airports have kiosks that allow contactless check-in and baggage drop.
  3. Use contactless payment if you have to purchase goods in airport shops.


We recommend following the comprehensive guidelines provided by the WHO while you’re in transit and in any public place. 


Essential Air Travel FAQs


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If you're worried or confused about traveling right now, go over these Frequently Asked Questions:


Should I wear a face covering?


Yes. Most airlines and airports require passengers to wear a face-covering or mask.


Why wear a mask?


Studies show that people who don't exhibit any COVID-19 symptoms and might not realize they're infected can spread the virus to others. Wearing a face mask, though not fail-safe, can help reduce the transmission.


What should I look for in a mask?


Researchers found that masks made from cotton fabrics with higher thread counts are most effective to use during air travel and in public places.


Acceptable face-covering includes disposable face masks and reusable cloth face masks (including homemade masks) with at least three layers of fabric. The masks have to cover the nose and mouth and are properly secured to the head.


You’ll be using your mask for a long period of time. It’s always better to wear one that feels comfortable, breathable and fits perfectly. 


We recommend this 3-Layer Reusable Face Mask on our next flight.


Who doesn't need to wear a mask?


While wearing a mask throughout the travel journey is essential, it can cause difficulty for some. Passengers who are exempted from wearing a mask include:


  1. Children below the age of 2 years.
  2. People who have trouble breathing.
  3. Someone who is unconscious or incapacitated.
  4. Those who cannot remove the mask without assistance.


If you have to travel with someone who falls into the last three criteria, make sure to bring a doctor’s medical note to validate your claim.


What about temperature checks?


Temperature checks upon departure and arrival vary by airport. It depends on the airport requirements and country of destination. You will not be allowed to board if you don’t pass the temperature checks- if your temperature is above 100.5 Fahrenheit.


Can I travel to Canada?


Canadian Prime Minister announced travel restrictions that limit travel to Canada.

Citizens, persons registered under Canada’s Indian Act, permanent residents, eligible foreign nationals, and refugees can enter Canada.


Go over these guidelines to know if you can travel to and enter Canada.

Wearing a Mask in Your Next Flight  


While the pandemic is ongoing non-essential travel isn’t recommended at all. Whether you decide to travel is up to you. When you do travel, make your entire trip as safe and comfortable as possible...


While waiting for a vaccine or treatment, masks serve as “one of the most pragmatic and effective options” for controlling the spread of the virus.


If you want to stay as safe as possible - of course, that’s what everyone wants - consider wearing your face mask at all times.


By taking this small yet significant step during air travel, you can contribute a great stride in keeping yourself and each other safer. 


Keep in mind that there’s no such thing as being proactive and taking things too seriously.



What Happens If You Sleep with a Face Mask on the Plane?

The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has dramatically changed the world of travel. After a prolonged cut back on air travel, Canadians are flying to different destinations again - but of course, with safety precautions and face masks in place.

As the entire world waits for the COVID-19 vaccine, travellers are pondering on every scenario and factors as they hit the skies. People are worried about maintaining proper distance and navigating high-touch areas throughout their journey. Wearing a mask during the entire flight duration is a concern for many. More than that, passengers aboard intercontinental flights are bothered about sleeping with a face mask on the plane.

You might also ask whether it’s safe to get on that plane while the pandemic is still on a rage. Or what is the risk of getting coronavirus while on the plane?

Travelling, spending time in airports and getting on a plane is one of the riskiest things one can do during this global crisis.  People around the airport and passengers with the flu can easily spread their illness to others. There’s a huge chance of bumping into each other and the six-foot distance would be difficult to keep.

But sometimes, it isn't possible to avoid air travel even in this thick COVID-19 pandemic. So if you have to travel for urgent and essential reasons, understand the risks, and take measures to stay safe.

Wearing a mask in airports and on board flights has been a federal requirement since April 2000. The Government of Canada is requiring travellers to wear a non-medical mask or face covering that will protect their nose and mouth properly. Especially now that cases in Canada reach almost 300,000 and hospitalizations are at an all-time high.


Sleeping on the Plane

Sleeping for long periods with a mask on has probable effects on the body. But when you sleep or take a quick nap, your body recovers - which is good for your overall health and immune system. A strong immune system is essential in fighting the deadly coronavirus. Even when you're sleeping, your body is still working to fight illnesses.

If you're on a long-haul journey and you need to sleep - don’t be afraid to do so. Just take more precautions with you. Sleeping with a face mask while you’re dozing off can give you protection when someone around you accidentally coughs or sneezes. It will lessen your risk of getting COVID-19 on the plane.

Don't worry about the aircraft air too. Most, if not all modern carriers have advanced High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) air filters. These filters remove impurities in the air and are as powerful as the ones used in hospitals. The virus won’t easily spread on the aircraft’s ventilation system, but it can linger on hard surfaces.

The plane is a more controlled environment. The risk of contacting COVID-10 while on the plane is lower compared to when you’re in the building, the supermarket, or commuter train. Based on what the WHO shares “there is little risk of communicable disease transmission in an aircraft,” with its high-efficiency air filter.

The best way to keep yourself and others protected while flying is to wear a face mask at all times - even when you need to sleep. You need to catch your rest especially when you have to travel across one or more time zones.

While it's tough to wear face masks the whole time, it’s a must. You’ll have peace of mind knowing that you have taken extra measures to keep yourself healthy and protected while onboard.

A study also found that the transmission risk of COVID-19 during airline flights is low and can be lessened through a combination of infection control measures - that is through face coverings and taking every safety step possible.

N95 Mask When Sleeping on the Plane

Most airlines mandate the use of face coverings of their staff, crews, and passengers for protection against COVID-19. The kind of face mask that one will use in an airplane – and when sleeping - can make a huge difference.

The much-touted N95 mask, regarded as the gold standard in the healthcare setting, filters out at least 95 percent of airborne virus particles. Its exhalation valves allow users to breathe more easily. However, this mask creates some flaws when used outside the health setting.

People's take on N95 masks also varies. Some experts, an ISU professor, and a biomath expert recommend this type of mask for air travel.

But the probability that breathing through N95 mask materials shows to impede gaseous exchange. Stanford engineers estimate that standard N95 masks reduce oxygen intake by anywhere from 5 to 20 percent. These probable effects aren't good even for a healthy person.

As such, most airlines advised passengers that any mask with exhalation valves or vents is not acceptable. According to the requirements outlined by Transport Canada, "masks with exhalation valve, bandanas, and scarves no longer qualify as acceptable face coverings."

While masks can cause dizziness, light-headedness, and feelings of breathlessness - and could even be life-threatening for those with respiratory complications - travelling without one is more deadly.

Since not all masks are created equal, you must discern which one you will use on your next flight, especially as the holiday travel season approaches. As such, it's necessary to wear an effective mask and purchase one from a reliable source.

Before you bring that N95 mask on the plane, think twice. It might not be as effective as what other people think. It would always be a wise decision to use a face covering - a disposable or cloth mask – that is highly recommended by the Federal Government and according to requirements outlined by Transport Canada.

 When travelling by air, it's vital to know what is accepted as an effective face covering. This way, you'll have peace of mind knowing that travelling by air will still give you the safe and healthy experience possible.

sleeping on the plane

Staying Safe While Flying     

Travelling increases your chance of being exposed to COVID-19. It's critical to take steps to protect yourself and others. When you travel, the risk of getting and spreading COVID-19 could increase, but don’t be worried that you’ll catch COVID while on the plane.

More than staying on the plane and sleeping with a face mask on, you need to consider all the factors such as waiting in security lines, hailing a cab to/from the airport, coming in contact with people at several instances, and surfaces on multiple touch points, etc.

If you need to travel at this uncertain time, do it safely. Protective measures will help keep you safe on your journey. You can work on lessening your chances of catching the virus and getting sick when travelling on planes.

Here are things to consider:

  1. Face masks are the key tool in preventing the spread of infection.
  2. Before you travel, it's better to take adequate rest so you can adjust your sleep routine accordingly.
  3. Anticipate your travel needs. Bring an extra mask; pack a hand sanitizer gel with you, and a medicine kit.
  4. When onboard, relax as much as possible. Have a stress-free trip to lessen your chance of getting an illness.
  5. Always wash your hands properly. When you need to take off your mask when you eat or drink, prioritize your hand hygiene.
  6. Take extra precaution. Bring disinfecting wipes with you on your next flight. Wipe your seat cover, tray table, armrest, seat-back pocket, headrest, seat-back screen, overhead air vent, in-flight entertainment screen, and window shade.
  7. Airplane lavatories are high-contact areas. Should using the lavatory be necessary especially if you're on a long flight, keep your hygiene in check.
  8. After your travel, consider self-isolating to keep others safe.

The best way to stay healthy as you travel by plane is to board healthy. This means getting plenty of sleep and staying hydrated. Adequate sleep strengthens your immune system. Hydrating well keeps your respiratory tract moist. This lessens your susceptibility to infections.

Air Travel with Face Masks On

As people take the skies again, wearing a face covering for a prolonged period is an important part of the journey.

Make sure you have the right and acceptable mask to fly like a reusable face mask.  There are face coverings like masks with exhalation valves, bandanas, and scarves, that aren't effective in protecting against COVID-10.

According to the Government of Canada’s website, "Masks with exhalation valves are not recommended, because they don't protect others from COVID-19 and don't limit the spread of the virus."

Keeping distance from other passengers and sitting within 6 feet in a long-haul flight may increase your risk of getting COVID-19, but wearing the right mask and taking every protective measure will reduce your risk.

Reducing COVID-19 Risk in Air Travel

Airlines have taken a stronger stance on face mask compliance, including in-flight to ensure the safety of everyone on the aircraft. This means wearing a face mask even when you go to sleep.

As airlines start and continue their flight while COVID-9 is on board, policies and precautions are implemented in airports and planes. Some airlines are operating on a limited number of flights and cabin capacity.

Most mandate the use of face coverings of airport workers and flight crews and require their passengers to wear both face coverings and shields at all times - from boarding to disembarkation at the destination.

Consequences for passengers who won't comply with protocols are implemented. Some consider banning travellers who won't comply with the requirements of wearing a face covering.

Other measures include enhanced cleaning and disinfection protocols, temperature testing, contactless boarding and baggage processing, and control of aisles and lavatories to minimize contact.

In general, Canadian airlines have mandatory face mask requirements. For instance, WestJet has a "zero-tolerance mask policy that took effect on September 1. AirCanada also makes it mandatory for passengers to wear face masks. Check-in, boarding, and onboard preventive measures are also implemented to better protect every passenger and their employees.

Even flight passengers are taking massive precautions to protect themselves from the coronavirus. They pack their own food and water and bring disinfectant wipes for tray tables, seats, and armrests. Some even wear biohazard suits, laboratory goggles, and even keep their protective face mask as they sleep. Taking more precautions is always better, than less or worse, nothing.

Air Travel in the Time of COVID-19

The COVID-19 outbreak has significantly impacted air travel. It has changed how people travel - at least for a while until we await the vaccine. And until this pandemic is under control, we need to protect ourselves by wearing a mask.

While masks may initially feel uncomfortable, it's a measure that everyone needs to successfully curb the pandemic. It's what we all need to do to get through this crisis together and faster. After all, we all want to get back out there and travel without worries again.

While air travel during coronavirus is nothing like it's used to be, following all precautions and protocols will make your next flight a relaxing, safe, and healthy one.

As the world and the skies reopen, the world of travel will change - and those changes remain to be seen. From why and where we go to our airplane seat selections, people will emerge as different travellers than before this crisis began.

So rather than worrying or getting stressed on your next flight, just sleep it off with your mask on. You don’t want to put your health at risk or get banned from flying again, right?

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