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 travel guidance

The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) currently advises British nationals against all but essential international travel. Travel to some countries and territories is currently exempted. This advice is being kept under constant review.

Travel disruption is still possible and national control measures may be brought in with little notice. Check FCDO coronavirus travel guidance.

Travel safely during the coronavirus outbreak

You can help control coronavirus (COVID-19) and travel safely by:

  • avoiding the busiest times and routes
  • keeping your distance when you travel (2 metres apart where possible)
  • washing or sanitising your hands regularly

You should not travel if you:

If anyone in your household or support bubble, where relevant, has symptoms of coronavirus you should self-isolate.

Read more about how to:

Before you fly

Before booking a flight, consider the essential 5-point checklist:

  1. Check FCDO travel advice.
  2. Check the latest health advice for your destination.
  3. Speak to your travel insurer.
  4. Complete the passenger locator form before flying in to the UK.
  5. Never travel if you display coronavirus symptoms.

Understand the public health requirements of your destination country, restrictions on re-entering the UK and read the following guidance:

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.

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.

Please make sure that any luggage which will be checked 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, medicines), or other prohibited items.

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

Arriving at the airport

Enter the airport on your own, unless you are flying with members of your household or support bubble, where relevant.

You must follow social contact rules.

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, Scotland and Wales you must wear a face covering in airports.

In Northern Ireland it is recommended that you wear a face covering in airports.

Read more about:

Treat staff and other passengers with respect.

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

  • where to sit
  • how to queue at check-in, security or when boarding the aircraft
  • instructions on screens, barriers or floor markings
  • requests to move to less busy areas

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

Avoid walking around the airport and mixing with people that you do not normally meet. Follow the rules on social contact.

In shops at the airport, wear a face covering, follow social distancing measures and, where possible, pay by contactless card.

On board the aircraft

The UK has a wide range of aircraft flying to many different international and domestic destinations. Measures to control coronavirus transmission will depend on:

  • the technical features of your aircraft
  • any specific requirements of your destination
  • the individual risk controls identified by your airline

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

In England, Scotland and Wales passengers must wear a face covering onboard aircraft. In Northern Ireland it is recommended that passengers wear face coverings onboard aircraft.

You can remove your face covering to:

  • communicate with someone who relies on lip reading
  • avoid harm or injury
  • take medication
  • eat or drink, if reasonably necessary

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

Before travelling to the UK – passenger locator form

Before you travel to the UK you must complete a passenger locator form.

This applies to people entering the UK from all countries and territories. It applies to UK residents and visitors.

You can complete it up to 48 hours before you enter the UK.

The form is an online form. You will need an internet connection and details of your journey to complete it.

Make sure you leave yourself enough time to complete it to reduce delays at the border.

Failure to complete the form is a criminal offence.

There are a small number people who don’t have to complete the form because of their jobs. People on domestic flights and people arriving from Ireland, the Isle of Man or the Channel Islands also don’t have to complete the form.

On arrival in the UK

On arriving in the UK, you must comply with border and immigration requirements.

You must show proof of a completed passenger locator form at the UK border.

This applies to people entering the UK from all countries. It applies to UK residents and visitors.

You should leave the airport as quickly as possible. Access to the terminal is limited to passengers, crew members and staff.

Non-passengers should only enter the airport where needed, for example when accompanying or picking up a passenger requiring assistance or unaccompanied children.


You may need to self-isolate on your arrival in the UK. Whether you need to self-isolate, and for how long, depends on where you have been in the last 14 days.

Read more about the rules to find out if you need to self-isolate, and for how long, if you are:

Certain other groups of people are also exempt from the need to self-isolate - you will need to check self-isolation requirements before you travel. 

Travelling within the UK

Before you travel between different parts of the United Kingdom, you should check that:

  • the activity you are travelling for is permitted in the country you plan to visit
  • you are permitted to stay overnight, if you need to do so

Read the guidance for:

Social distancing

The risk of transmission increases the closer you are to another person with coronavirus 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

Read more about:

Social contact

It is against the law for people who do not live together to gather in a group larger than 6. Read more about:

The police have powers to enforce these legal limits.

Hand washing

Washing your hands is one of the most effective ways to reduce the risk of coronavirus 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, Scotland and Wales you must wear a face covering in airports.

In Northern Ireland it is recommended that you wear a face covering in airports.

Read more about:

On board aircraft

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

In Northern Ireland it is recommended that you wear a face covering during 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 which you can choose to wear or carry to show you are not required to wear a face covering.

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

Some transport staff may also not be required wear a face covering depending on the applicable regulations.

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 14 September 2020 + show all updates
  1. New rules on social gatherings of more than 6 people.

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

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

  4. Changes to face covering rules in Scotland.

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

  6. First published.