Guidance

Coronavirus (COVID-19): safer air travel for passengers

How to travel safely in airports and on aircraft during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

COVID-19 testing and quarantine

Because of COVID-19 there are rules that you need to follow when you travel abroad and return to the UK.

Find out what to do if you’re:

NHS COVID Pass - show your COVID-19 vaccination status

An NHS COVID Pass shows your coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccination details or test results. This is your COVID-19 vaccination status.

You can use the NHS COVID Pass to prove your vaccination status when you enter another country while travelling abroad.

Find out:

Before booking a flight

Before you book an international flight, you should:

Where possible, your airline will inform you on measures to minimise transmission of coronavirus.

In line with other medical conditions, airlines have the right to refuse travel to anyone they believe is not fit to fly.

NHS test and trace

You must not travel if you have been advised that you must self-isolate by the NHS test and trace service:

You should not travel if you:

  • are experiencing any COVID-19 symptoms or have in the last 7 days, even if your symptoms are mild
  • are self-isolating as a result of COVID-19 symptoms
  • are sharing a household with somebody who has experienced COVID-19 symptoms in the past 10 days

Online check-in

Where possible, check in online to avoid face-to-face contact at the airport.

You are strongly encouraged to check in baggage to the aircraft hold and minimise any hand baggage. This will speed up boarding and disembarking and minimise the risk of transmission.

Make sure any luggage you intend to check in does not contain any lithium batteries (in equipment such as laptops, or stand-alone batteries such as powerbanks), valuable or essential items (such as cash, credit cards, keys and medicines), or other prohibited items.

Follow the safer travel guidance during your journey to the airport.

Arriving at the airport

Non-passengers should only enter the airport where needed. For example, accompanying or picking up a passenger requiring assistance, such as a disabled person or an unaccompanied child.

In England, it is a legal requirement to wear face coverings at airports. Some people, including children under 11, are exempt from having to wear face coverings. Anyone with a health condition or disability, which means they cannot wear a face covering, has a reasonable excuse for not wearing a face covering.

Read more about:

Customers should follow the rules and guidance set by transport operators during all stages of their journey.

Follow the guidance on:

At check-in

Where possible, avoid touching surfaces in the airport. Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds after using self-service check-in, luggage trollies and other frequently touched surfaces.

Depending on the airport you fly from and where you are flying to, you may need to have your temperature checked before flying.

At the security checkpoint

Follow advice in the airport to prepare for security checks.

At the departure lounge/ terminal airside area/ arrival areas

Where possible, avoid walking around the airport and mixing with people you do not normally meet.

In shops at the airport, where possible, pay by contactless card.

On board the aircraft

Your airline will advise you on measures in place for your flight.

In England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland passengers must wear a face covering onboard aircraft.

During the flight, you should:

  • remain seated as much as possible
  • follow instructions and guidance from crew
  • use contactless payment where possible
  • be aware there is likely to be a reduced food and drink service
  • make the cabin crew aware if you become ill

On arrival in the UK

What coronavirus (COVID-19) testing and quarantine rules you need to follow depends on your vaccination status and where you have been in the 10 days before you arrive. Find out what to do if you’re:

Transiting through England

There are different rules for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Passing through an airport in England as part of an international journey is called ‘transiting’.

What you need to do when you transit through England depends on whether you:

  • transit airside or landside
  • qualify as fully vaccinated for travel to England
  • have been in a red list country in the 10 days before you arrive

The rules are different if your final destination is within the UK, Ireland, Channel Islands or the Isle of Man.

Airside transit

Airside transit is when you do not pass through UK border control. You remain ‘airside’ before you leave the UK on your connecting journey.

If you transit airside, you do not need to take a COVID-19 test before you travel to England if you:

If you do not qualify as fully vaccinated or you have been in a red list country, you need to take a COVID-19 test in the 3 days before you travel to England.

Check separate guidance to see if you qualify as fully vaccinated for travel to England.

You do not need to complete a passenger locator form before travel to England.

When you are in England you do not need to quarantine or take any COVID-19 travel tests.

Landside transit

Landside transit is when you pass through UK border control on arrival, but you leave the UK shortly after (usually within 24 hours). You may leave from the same airport, railway station or port where you arrived, or from a different one, so long as you travel directly to that port of departure.

If you transit landside, you do not need to take a COVID-19 test before you travel to England if you:

If you do not qualify as fully vaccinated or you have been in a red list country, you need to take a COVID-19 test in the 3 days before you travel to England.

Check separate guidance to see if you qualify as fully vaccinated for travel to England.

You must complete a passenger locator form before you travel to England.

You need to do the following when you complete your passenger locator form.

  • select ‘Stay in the UK’ under the Your travel plans section
  • reply ‘I will be travelling for an exempt reason’ to the question about whether you are required to self-isolate on arrival
  • select the Exemption options, and then select ‘Transit Exemption’

This includes if you are transiting onto the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man. You may need to show evidence of onward travel and where you will be staying at the border.

When you are in England you do not need to quarantine or take any COVID-19 travel tests.

You must either:

  • remain within your port of entry until your departure from England
  • travel directly from your port of entry to another port of departure in England

Transiting within the UK, Ireland, Channel Islands or Isle of Man

Check the rules if your final destination is within the UK, Ireland, Channel Islands or the Isle of Man.

Ireland, the UK, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man

The Common Travel Area (CTA) is made up of Ireland, the UK (England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales), the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man.

If you have not been outside the CTA

If you are travelling to England from somewhere within the Common Travel Area and you have not been outside of the CTA in the previous 10 days, you do not need to:

  • complete the UK passenger locator form
  • take any COVID-19 travel tests
  • quarantine on arrival in England

Other parts of the Common Travel Area may have entry restrictions in place, such as testing, forms to fill in or quarantine. Check the requirements for:

Travelling on within the Common Travel Area (CTA) after an international journey

If you will be travelling on from England to Ireland, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales, the Channel Island or the Isle of Man after an international journey, you must follow the rules for testing and quarantine in those places.

If you have been in a red list country in the 10 days before you arrive, you must quarantine in a managed hotel at the airport where you arrive in England.

You should book your managed hotel package before you travel.

Travelling within the UK

Because of coronavirus, there are restrictions in place on what you can do, including restrictions on travel. For details, and for information on national and local restrictions, check:

Social distancing

Social distancing rules apply in airports between disembarkation and border control. This is to manage the risk of variants of concern being transmitted between individuals and imported into the country.

The risk of transmission increases the closer you are to another person with COVID-19 and the longer you spend in close contact. Wherever possible and practical, you should:

  • keep 2 metres away from people outside your household or support bubble, where relevant
  • minimise the time you spend near other people

Follow instructions from airport and airline staff, which may include:

  • where to sit
  • how to queue when getting off the plane or when waiting to pass through the border
  • instructions on screens, barriers or floor markings
  • requests to move to less busy areas

Social contact

There are different rules about social contact in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Read more about:

Hand washing

Washing your hands is one of the most effective ways to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission. You should:

  • wash your hands regularly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, particularly after touching surfaces, for example, luggage trolley handles, self-service check-in and security trays
  • use hand sanitiser if hand washing facilities are not available
  • be aware of the surfaces you touch
  • be careful not to touch your face, mouth or eyes
  • cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your elbow when coughing or sneezing
  • consider bringing your own supply of hand sanitiser for the flight, within the hand luggage restrictions for liquids

Face coverings

At the airport

In England, it is a legal requirement to wear face coverings at airports. Some people, including children under 11, are exempt from having to wear face coverings. Anyone with a health condition or disability, which means they cannot wear a face covering, has a reasonable excuse for not wearing a face covering.

Read more about:

Customers should follow the rules and guidance set by transport operators during all stages of their journey.

On board aircraft

Customers should follow the rules and guidance set by transport operators during all stages of their journey.

In England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales you must wear a face covering on board commercial air flights.

People who don’t have to wear a face covering

Some people don’t have to wear a face covering, for reasons of health, age or equality. See more information about:

Government and some operators have produced cards and badges that you can choose to wear or carry to show you are not wearing one for a specific reason.

There is no requirement to do this, though, and transport staff should not ordinarily ask for such evidence.

You should remove your face covering if asked to do so by police, border control or airport security.

It is important to use face coverings properly. Wash or sanitise your hands before putting them on and after taking them off. Store face coverings hygienically when not in use.

You should bring your own face covering for use throughout your journey. Bring spare face coverings for longer journeys.

Bring plastic bags to store used face coverings and dispose of them properly. Use a ‘black bag’ waste bin or litter bin to dispose of face coverings. You should not put face coverings in a recycling bin or drop them as litter.

Some international destinations may require different face coverings or masks to the UK – you should check before you travel.

Be aware that wearing a face covering may make it harder for people who rely on lip reading, facial expressions and clear sound to understand.

Published 11 June 2020
Last updated 2 December 2021 + show all updates
  1. Face covering guidance for England updated.

  2. Passengers transiting 'airside' through England do not have to complete a UK passenger locator form.

  3. International travel rules updated.

  4. Changes to rules on face coverings and social distancing to reflect Step 4 of roadmap out of lockdown.

  5. From 4am 29 June, you do not need to quarantine on arrival or take a COVID-19 test on or before day 2 and day 8 if you are transiting airside or landside to one of the Crown Dependencies.

  6. Changes to requirements for entering England and Scotland for new green list countries.

  7. Travel restrictions update to reflect roadmap out of lockdown.

  8. Link to declaration form for international travel from England added.

  9. Link to roadmap out of lockdown added.

  10. New testing, self-isolation and quarantine rules from 15 February.

  11. Information about coronavirus testing before travel to the UK.

  12. Added information about coronavirus (COVID-19) testing before travelling to England.

  13. Requirement to self-isolate for 14 days on arrival in UK replaced by 10 day requirement.

  14. Local tier restrictions apply in England.

  15. National restrictions information added.

  16. New rules on social gatherings of more than 6 people.

  17. Change to rule on wearing a face covering in airports.

  18. Linking to the list of countries and territories on the travel corridors exemption list.

  19. Changes to face covering rules in Scotland.

  20. Updated to reflect the new requirement for passengers to wear face coverings on aircraft in England.

  21. First published.

  1. Step 1 Plan your trip

  2. Step 2 Get your passport, visas and permits ready

    How much time you need on your passport depends on the country you're visiting. Check the entry requirements for the country you want to travel to.

    1. Check your passport has enough time left on it for the country you're visiting
    2. Renew or replace your passport
    3. Get a passport for your child

    You may also need a visa to enter some countries.

    1. Check if you need a visa or permit
  3. Step 3 Get travel insurance and check if you need vaccinations or inoculations

  4. Step 4 Travel safely during COVID-19

  5. Step 5 Going through border control

    You may need to show paperwork such as your passport or visa. You may also need a negative COVID-19 test result or to demonstrate your COVID-19 vaccination status at the point of entry.

    1. Check the entry requirements for the country you are travelling to or transiting through
  6. Step 6 When you're abroad

  7. Step 7 Before you return to the UK

  8. Step 8 After you arrive in the UK