Guidance

Coronavirus (COVID-19): safer aviation guidance for operators

Safer travel and working principles for airports and aviation operators.

This guide will help the aviation industry manage risks from coronavirus (COVID-19) and provide safer workplaces and services for workers and passengers.

General principles

The best way to protect against transmission of coronavirus is through routine:

  • robust social distancing
  • regular cleanings
  • good hand and respiratory hygiene

Where these routine measures are not possible, carry out a risk assessment and adopt additional measures.

Applicability of the suggested measures

The UK aviation sector has a diverse range of airports, aircraft, routes and operations. This guidance addresses commercial passenger and freight aviation, business aviation, and some aspects of general aviation. It is up to each organisation to arrive at a suitable risk control strategy. 

Public health authorities

This guidance applies to all countries of the United Kingdom. Aviation operators in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland should also refer to the health advice from the relevant public health authority:

Freight

Cargo operators and airports should consider how the measures set out in this document should be applied, where relevant, to cargo and freight flights.

General and business aviation

The measures set out in this document should be applied, where relevant, to general and business aviation. Consider the guidance for recreational and general aviation.

Staff roles in airports and on board aircraft

This guidance applies to all workers in the aviation industry. Workers include and are not limited to: aircrew and flight crew, ground crew, retail staff, baggage handlers, maintenance engineers, shuttle / bus drivers, security staff, cleaners, catering company workers and workers who assist passengers with reduced mobility or disabilities. Consider the full range of activities and how to manage the risks arising from these roles.

Passenger responsibility

All operators (airports, airlines, travel companies, other service providers) are responsible for clear health and safety communications with workers and passengers at the appropriate points in their journey.

Communications should reinforce passengers’ personal responsibility for the safety of themselves and others. Operators should consider:

  • how passengers can be informed of what measures are in place and why
  • what guidance should be given to passengers on expected behaviours

There is separate guidance for passengers travelling by air and in airports.

Risk assessments

A risk assessment helps organisations identify sensible measures to control or manage the risks in workplaces and the services you provide. There are various types of risk assessment to control different types of risks. This guidance relates to health and safety risk assessments to manage the risks of coronavirus transmission.

Use this guide to ensure that your risk assessment addresses the risks of coronavirus and incorporates decisions and control measures suitable for the aviation industry. This aviation guidance sets out what the employer should be doing to control risk in a prioritised way and what staff should be doing to cooperate with their employer and to safeguard themselves and others.  There is more general guidance to help employers, employees and the self-employed understand how to work safely during the coronavirus pandemic.

All existing non-coronavirus related health and safety requirements continue to apply. The Health and Safety Executive and other transport regulators can help you comply with health and safety legislation.

Review your risk assessment regularly to ensure that it remains relevant and appropriate under changing circumstances. Risk assessments should take account of other risks and ensure controls implemented for coronavirus do not increase risks due to other hazards.

Employers have a legal duty to consult employees and unions on health and safety. Workers should be involved in assessing workplace risks, and in the development and review of workplace health and safety policies in partnership with the employer. Employees should be encouraged to identify, speak up, and provide feedback on risks and control measures.

We recommend you consider the following when conducting a coronavirus risk assessment:

  • risks to workers, passengers, customers, and the public, along with the control measures required
  • the impact of control measures and whether they result in additional, different risks or non-compliance with other requirements (for example health and safety or equalities legislation)
  • applying the hierarchy of controls set out in the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 to control risk in a prioritised way
  • consultation with workers, or bodies representing workers, and the public
  • the visibility of the results of any risk assessment
  • service providers have duties towards individuals with protected characteristics
  • transport networks should be accessible to everyone
  • individuals should be supported to comply with social distancing
  • all equality and discrimination laws continue to apply
  • organisations need to ensure that the actions taken as a result of the assessment do not disproportionately impact those with protected characteristics
  • consideration should also be given to other groups needing additional support to travel safely, such as minors and vulnerable people

The airport, aircraft operator or other relevant parties need to conduct risk assessments to determine what the risks are and how to go about risk control. Risks should be reduced to the lowest reasonably practical level by taking preventative measures in order of priority.

In the following order of priority, risks should be:

  • eliminated
  • controlled through substituting materials or processes with less hazardous ones
  • controlled through engineering means
  • controlled through identifying and implementing procedures
  • controlled through using individual protective measures such as gloves and face masks if all other measures have been implemented and residual risk remains

In line with HSE guidance, it is important to follow this order of priority rather than simply jump to what may seem the easiest control measure to implement.

If your risk assessment shows that personal protective equipment (PPE) is required, then you must provide this PPE free of charge to workers who need it. Any PPE provided must fit properly. This document includes specific guidance on measures for security staff in aviation.

Risk assessments should consider communication with passengers, where relevant, making it as straightforward as possible for passengers to comply with measures, and giving passengers and the wider public the information they need to have confidence in the public health measures implemented in the aviation sector.

It is important to note that the obligations to provide assistance to disabled people and people with reduced mobility, as set out in Regulation (EC) 1107/2006, remain in place. Guidance to both airports and airlines on the provision of special assistance has been produced by CAA and ECAC. Organisations need to ensure that actions taken to control risks of coronavirus transmission do not disproportionately impact those with protected characteristics.

In Wales the law (PDF) requires those responsible for premises open to the public or for work being carried out at any premises, including aircraft, to take all reasonable measures to ensure that a distance of 2 metres is maintained between persons on the premises.

Some exceptions apply, for example, for members of the same household, and statutory guidance has been published.

National transport operator guidance

There is also separate multimodal transport operator guidance containing relevant information for aviation operators, including (but not limited to) information on:

  • workforce planning
  • queues and protecting passenger flows
  • emergency incidents
  • cleaning
  • ventilation
  • communications and training
  • face coverings

Read more about:

Who should be at work

The safer transport operator guidance sets out who should be at work and who should be self-isolating, how home working can be enabled in the transport sector, and measures to protect people who are at higher risk of severe illness from coronavirus and who are shielding.

Operators should consider employees with a disability or other protected characteristic. It is breaking the law to discriminate, directly or indirectly, against anyone because of a protected characteristic such as age, sex or disability. Employers have specific responsibilities towards disabled workers and those who are new or expectant mothers.

Social distancing

The risk of transmission is small at 2 metres and where possible, passengers and people working in aviation should maintain 2 metres distance from people outside their household (or support bubble, where relevant). Where social distancing is not possible, operators should implement appropriate risk controls as detailed in this guidance and the guidance from international aviation bodies. 

Different rules and guidance on social distancing in workplaces apply in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Read more about:

Social contact

Passengers must follow social contact rules, which limit group sizes to a maximum of 6 people. Read more about:

The police have powers to enforce these legal limits.

Hand washing

Washing hands is one of the most effective ways to reduce the risk of coronavirus transmission and the aviation industry is encouraged to consider how it can facilitate hand washing.

  • hand washing is relevant to both employees and passengers
  • consider the use of hand sanitiser for circumstances in which it is difficult to wash hands (for example before boarding or disembarking from an aircraft)
  • consider ways for people to avoid touching surfaces before and after washing hands (for example, through non-touch sensors for doors and taps)

Respiratory hygiene

Encourage passengers to avoid touching their faces and to cough or sneeze into a tissue, or into their arm if a tissue is not available. Assist passengers to dispose of used tissues safely.

Fixed teams and partnering

Social distancing is the most effective measure to prevent or reduce the risk of coronavirus transmission and should be implemented wherever possible. Where social distancing is not possible, consider organising work so that employees work in groups that are as small as possible (“cohorting”) with minimal mixing between groups. For example, consider keeping maintenance teams working together, rather than mixing team members on different shifts.

Face coverings

Passengers must wear a face covering:

  • in enclosed areas of airports in England
  • in all areas of airports in Scotland
  • in all public indoor areas of airports in Wales
  • on board airline services in England, Scotland and Wales

In England, staff (including airport and airline staff, ground handling staff, and Border Force officials) are exempt from the requirement to wear a face covering while they are working. When they are not at work or are off duty (for example, during breaks), staff must wear a face covering inside the airport.

In Scotland, staff must wear a face covering in public areas of the airport and on board airline services. This does not apply to pilots.

In Northern Ireland it is recommended that face coverings are worn whilst at the airport and on board airline services.

In Wales, staff working in indoor areas of the airport that are open to the public are required to wear face coverings while in those areas.

The rules about when and where to wear face coverings are different in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Read more about:

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

Where a passenger states that they are not required to wear a face covering, those seeking to enforce the requirement should take a proportionate approach with regard to supporting evidence. By way of example, it is not envisaged that people relying on age, health or disability will routinely be required to produce any written evidence in support of their reliance.

People who are not required to wear a face covering may choose to use cards or badges such as those produced by government or by some operators. It is important to be aware that there is no requirement to do this, and some people may choose not to.

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

Encourage passengers to bring spare face coverings for longer journeys and plastic bags to store used face coverings. Consider:

  • having a supply of spare face coverings in airports and on aircraft
  • providing extra ‘black bag’ waste bins or litter bins for customers to throw away face coverings - staff and passengers should not use a recycling bin

Aircraft operators can use existing powers, including those specified in conditions of carriage, to require passengers to wear face coverings before and during flights. Where airlines have made this a condition of carriage, they may decline carriage for passengers that do not comply.

A face covering is not the same as the surgical masks or respirators used by healthcare and other workers as part of workplace PPE. These should be reserved for people who need to wear them at work, such as health and care workers. See the guidance on risk control measures at security checkpoints.

Some international destinations may require different face coverings or masks to the UK.

Please be mindful that the wearing of a face covering may inhibit communication with people who rely on lip reading, facial expressions and clear sound.

Face coverings – travelling to the airport

Passengers must wear a face covering on public transport. They should follow the relevant safer travel guidance:

Face coverings – at the airport

Passengers must wear a face covering in enclosed areas of airports in England and in all areas of airports in Scotland. In Wales people must wear face coverings in all indoor areas of the airport.

In Northern Ireland, it is recommended that people wear face coverings in any crowded, enclosed spaces at the airport where social distancing is difficult to achieve.

In England, staff are exempt from this requirement while they are working, but must wear a face covering inside the airport when they are not at work or on duty (for example, during breaks). In Scotland, staff must wear a face covering in public areas of the airport. In Wales, airport staff who work in indoor areas of the airport that are open to the public are required to wear face coverings while they are in those areas.

Passengers and staff should be prepared to remove face coverings if asked to do so by police, border control or airport security.

Face coverings – on board an aircraft

Passengers must wear a face covering on board airline services in England, Scotland and Wales. In Northern Ireland it is recommended that passengers wear face coverings on board.

In Scotland, staff must wear a face covering on board airline services. This does not apply to pilots.

Some people don’t have to wear a face covering on airline services, for reasons of health, age or equality:

Airlines should:

  • provide guidance to passengers on use of face coverings, including how to put them on and take them off safely
  • where necessary provide guidance on what to do with a face covering when eating or drinking:
    • how to take off and put on the face covering
    • how to store it hygienically in a plastic bag
    • washing hands or using hand sanitiser before and after touching the face covering

In Wales transport operators are required to provide information about the requirement to wear face coverings to passengers intending to travel. This information may be provided in a variety of ways.

Transport operators websites should carry specific information on wearing face coverings as part of the conditions of travelling and may provide links to other useful websites – for example, showing how to make a face covering and how to wear a face covering properly.

Notices advising passengers of their legal obligation to wear face coverings should be displayed in a prominent place on board the transport (in both English and Welsh) whenever feasible. Notices and information should also be provided at facilities such as departure lounges.

Passenger journey

Follow these measures at each stage of the passenger journey.

Booking a flight

Warn passengers of the risk of becoming stranded overseas if new restrictions are imposed suddenly (via up-to-date FCDO travel notices).

Make passengers aware of any health measures and restrictions on re-entering the UK before booking travel:

See also:

Direct passengers to the wider passenger guidance to plan their journey to or from the airport. Advise passengers on the relevant requirements for wearing a face covering, and that if they are unable to observe social distancing they should take measures such as washing their hands frequently, avoiding touching surfaces and facing away from others.

Symptomatic passengers – prior to check in

Airlines should consider how to encourage symptomatic passengers not to go to the airport. Consider customer communications, incentives such as flexible booking options and passenger rights regarding refunds or rebooking if they choose not to travel due to coronavirus symptoms.

Online check-in

Where possible, check-in should be managed online and prior to arrival at the airport to avoid face-to-face contact at the airport.

Airlines are strongly recommended to formally advise customers not to travel if:

  • they have experienced coronavirus symptoms in the last 7 days
  • someone in their household or support bubble, where relevant, has experienced coronavirus symptoms in the last 14 days
  • they have been in close contact with other people who have experienced coronavirus symptoms in the last 14 days

Consider using prominent messaging on airline websites, email, SMS, via travel agents, and any other suitable customer contact platform.

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

For aviation employees

Airlines, airports and service providers should consider similar declarations from their employees within their own health monitoring programmes and under existing employment contracts. Put in place protocols to remove staff with coronavirus symptoms from duties as quickly as possible. For ground-based staff the standard government guidance in relation to employer duty of care applies.

Communications

All operators (airports, airlines, travel companies, other service providers) are responsible for clear health and safety communications with passengers at the appropriate point in their journey.

Design communications to reinforce passengers’ personal responsibility for safety of themselves and others. Consider how passengers can be informed of what new measures are in place and why, and what guidance should be given to passengers regarding expected behaviours.

Airlines, travel agents, and tour operators should provide passengers with clear communications, guidance and information ahead of their flight. The messaging should be simple, clear and accessible with consideration of groups whose first language may not be English and those with disabilities. Topics can include how far in advance passengers should arrive, cleaning regimes, and staff and passenger welfare. Passengers should be clear what to expect at the airport and on the flight, and what they need to do to prepare.

Communications should be clear that, whilst social distancing and good hygiene remain the most important thing, face coverings should be worn in airports, and must be worn in airports in England, Scotland and Wales. As well as on airline services, which is a legal requirement in England, Wales and Scotland.

To make social distancing easier during boarding and disembarkation, airlines should strongly promote the carriage of baggage in the aircraft hold and minimise any hand/ cabin baggage through communication and incentive policies. Face coverings and adequate personal supplies may need to be catered for. Existing safety protocols on baggage (including lithium batteries) continue to apply.

Travelling to the airport

Airports should continue to work closely with other transport providers to support social distancing.

Encourage passengers to book their travel to the airport online in advance and follow the relevant safer travel guidance:

Operators should coordinate and communicate timetable / schedule changes to passengers so they can plan their journey to the airport.

Consider how to communicate to passengers the time it will take to progress through the airport with public health measures in place. Allow enough time for passengers to make their flight while keeping the time they spend at the airport to a minimum.

At the airport

Where possible, airports should help passengers observe social distancing when entering the airport. For example, through one-way flows, signage at drop-off point, lifts from car park to terminals, and so on. Where possible, design passenger flows to minimise queues and crowds as these create coronavirus transmission risks and potential security vulnerabilities.

Advise passengers to enter the airport on their own, unless they are with members of the same household or support bubble, where relevant. Only give non-passengers access to the airport where needed. For example, to pick up passengers with reduced mobility or unaccompanied minors, or for access to public transport.

Passengers must wear a face covering in enclosed areas of airports in England and Wales, and in all areas of airports in Scotland.

Airport cleaning

Cleaning is vital in all areas of the airport and aircraft. Aircraft and airport operators should write and implement a cleaning plan and update it when new information becomes available. Follow UK public health cleaning guidance. Regularly clean surfaces thoroughly using standard detergents. Regularly review the frequency of cleaning based on traffic.

Regularly clean all frequently touched surfaces. For example, door handles, banister rails, buttons, luggage trolley handles, and toilet areas. Maintain air conditioning systems properly. Consider installation of touch-free equipment in toilet facilities such doors, taps and soap dispensers.

Perform cleaning activities in ways that do not aerosolise particles set on surfaces. For example, avoid air blowing procedures and the use of vacuum cleaners. Ensure a full risk assessment is in place for cleaning staff, consistent with the general advice on workplace cleaning. Consider local communications to staff and passengers on cleaning frequency and protocols.

Make hand washing facilities and/or hand sanitiser available at airports. Use the risk assessment to determine where these should be placed. Consider entrances, exits, before and after security, areas where food and drink may be consumed, staff areas, and commonly touched surfaces.

Symptomatic passengers – at the airport

In line with other medical conditions, airlines have the right to refuse travel to anyone they believe is not fit to fly. Aircraft operators should use existing powers, including conditions of carriage, for this.

If anyone becomes unwell in an airport with the symptoms of coronavirus they should be sent home, if possible, and be advised to follow the stay at home guidance:

They should also arrange to have a test to see if they have coronavirus:

Agree pathways to manage suspected coronavirus cases at each airport. The PHE Health Control Unit or equivalent for devolved administrations can advise on isolating and managing passengers with symptoms.

If individuals need clinical advice, they should go online to NHS 111, or call 111 if they don’t have internet access:

In an emergency, call 999 if an individual is seriously ill or injured or their life is at risk. Do not visit the GP, pharmacy, urgent care centre or a hospital.

Unless you are directly advised by the local public health authorities, there is currently no requirement to self-isolate if you have been near to someone showing coronavirus symptoms in the workplace and have been following the measures agreed in the risk assessment. Workers should wash their hands thoroughly for 20 seconds after any contact with someone who is unwell. It is not necessary to close the transport setting or send any staff home. It is part of the risk assessment process for airport operators to determine measures to protect staff in this scenario.

In Wales proximity of closer than 2 metres for 15 minutes or more falls within the Public Health Wales definition of close contact with an infected person and that individual would have to enter the test, trace, protect system.

Ventilation

Consider ventilation and air flow in airports. Where possible, ensure that there is a consistently flowing fresh air supply. Fresh air ventilation systems can operate as normal but recirculating air systems may require adjustments to increase fresh air flow.

Passenger flows

Minimise face-to-face contact between check-in staff and passengers by promoting online check-in, introducing measures to assist passengers using self-service check-in, and (where feasible) providing self-service check-in terminals and bag drop.

Where face-to-face contact is unavoidable, consider protective measures such as screens. These should allow the handover of the required documentation but provide protection for both staff and passengers. Consider introducing protocols where possible to limit contact with documentation, for example checking electronically.

Consider the frequency of cleaning for commonly touched items such as self-service check-in terminals to minimise the risk of transmission.

Where queues may form, take measures to encourage passengers to keep 2 metres apart. Consider floor markings, signage, announcements, space requirements, ventilation and staffing. Where queues are unavoidable, undertake a security risk assessment and share with appropriate stakeholders.

Display health and safety promotion materials, particularly in waiting areas and high passenger flow areas. For example, at entrances, gates, lounges and on information screens. Use simple, clear and accessible messaging to explain guidelines, with consideration of groups whose first language may not be English and people with disabilities.

Encourage passengers, where possible, not to touch surfaces in the airport. Frequently touched surfaces, such as self-service check-in terminals, luggage trolley handles and automated gates, should be cleaned regularly following the manufacturer’s instructions. Use standard detergents and cleaning products or 70% isopropyl alcohol (IPA). Airport and aircraft operators should consider providing hand sanitiser or suitable wipes where needed. They should also address the safe collection and disposal of used wipes and additional waste.

Make hand washing facilities, or where that is not possible hand sanitiser, available to passengers and staff.

Temperature screening

The current scientific evidence does not support temperature screening as an effective method to screen passengers for coronavirus. SAGE advice is that there should be no requirement for temperature screening before passengers fly to, enter, depart from, or fly within the UK.

Airports or aircraft operators may decide to introduce temperature screening as part of a package of measures to increase passenger confidence, or where destinations outside the UK have mandated temperature screening before departure. When serving countries which require temperature screening, operators may decide for operational reasons to also implement screening for passengers travelling to other destinations.

If implementing temperature screening, airports and aircraft operators should work together to consider how best to do so. Airlines and airports implementing the system should consider:

  • the effective training and safety of staff conducting temperature testing
  • concept of operations
  • calibration of devices
  • passenger flows
  • passenger assistance
  • data protection legislation

Give attention to pathways for passengers who fail screening, including the possibility of false positive and false negative results.

At the security checkpoint

Airport operators should identify and control transmission risks at security checkpoints.

Give clear information and guidance to passengers at security checkpoints. Encourage passengers to prepare for security checks in a way that will minimise the need for manual searches.

Undertake a health and safety risk assessment of security checkpoints to determine the safest way to appropriately manage any health risk. Consider screens, processes, working practices and use of technology to control the risk of transmission through being near to others and handling common items such as screening trays.

Consider PPE requirements for security officers, as determined by the risk assessment. It is recommended to ask passengers if they have any recognised symptoms of coronavirus before security searches, wear gloves for each search and wash hands as frequently as possible.

Implement measures to encourage social distancing. For example, using signage and floor markings, excluding areas where there may be an operational need that prohibits distancing. Consider the guidance for queues and crowd management.

Consider making hand sanitiser available for passengers at the start and end of the security checkpoint. Carry out a risk assessment of the security checkpoint to determine where to place hand sanitiser.

At the departure lounge/ terminal airside area/ arrival areas

Airport operators should consider configuring the physical space to encourage social distancing, where possible, and to discourage people from walking around and mixing with people who they do not normally meet.

Consider rearranging, limiting or removing seating to encourage social distancing, removing face-to-face seating, and using floor tape and signs in passenger areas to help people keep 2 metres apart, where possible. Organisations need to ensure that the actions taken do not disproportionately impact people with protected characteristics and continue to maintain access and support for disabled people and people with reduced mobility.

Retailers

Retailers throughout airports should follow government guidance for retail. Encourage retailers, where possible, to limit customer numbers, use self-service options, and operate a one-way system, in coordination with measures taken throughout the airport. Retailers should be cashless wherever possible. Airports and retailers should work together to minimise any risks arising from the consumption of essential food and drink, including opening additional seating areas where that enables social distancing and reduces risks of transmission.

It is against the law for people who do not live together to gather in a group larger than 6. There are exceptions, for example for work, or for members of the same household or support bubble.

The police have powers to enforce these legal limits.

Retailers following COVID-19 secure guidelines can continue to host more people in total but groups entering their premises must not be larger than 6 (unless the group is a household or support bubble). Retailers must continue to take reasonable steps to mitigate the risk of transmission, in line with COVID-19 secure guidance and including completion of a risk assessment. More information about the rules for venues and activities.

In Scotland, businesses must:

  • ensure that staff wear face coverings
  • take all reasonable measures to ensure that a distance of 2 metres is maintained between people on its premises (except 2 members of the same household or a carer and a person assisted by a carer)
  • take all reasonable measures to ensure it only admits people to its premises in sufficiently small numbers to make it possible to maintain that distance
  • take all reasonable measures to ensure that a distance is maintained between people waiting to enter its premises

In Wales, gatherings indoors must be limited to 6 people from the same extended household, not including any children aged under 11. There are exceptions, for example, for any person to provide care to somebody who is vulnerable.

Stricter rules will apply for residents of areas under local lockdown.

Businesses in Wales must must ensure staff wear face coverings whilst in public, indoor areas and take all reasonable measures to ensure that a distance of 2 metres is maintained between people on its premises. There are limited circumstances in which physical distances of less than this are permitted.

Read guidance for Northern Ireland on making workplaces safer.

Transit between terminals

Where airports have passenger transit systems (including Gatwick and Stansted) operators should consider the multi-modal guidance for transport operators. Carry out a risk assessment to identify suitable measures to lower the risk of transmission. For example, additional social distancing measures, increasing the number of transits, limiting the number of people on transits, providing hand sanitiser, and reviewing cleaning schedules. Advise passengers that they may need extra time to travel between terminals.

At the departure gate

Subject to infrastructure or operational constraints, implement social distancing measures in waiting areas, at departure gates and wherever queues form. For example, consider one-way passenger flows, floor markings and signage. Follow the guidance for queues and crowd management.

Consider installing screens (subject to risk assessment) to protect the staff who are viewing passports and boarding passes. Consider introducing protocols to allow staff to view and not touch passports and boarding passes. Make hand washing facilities or hand sanitiser available. Carry out a risk assessment of the departure gate to determine where to place these.

Embarkation and disembarkation

Encourage passengers to observe social distancing when boarding the aircraft. Depending on the terminal facilities and apron layout, this could involve: walking in a spaced manner from the gate to the aircraft or changing the way buses are operated.

Operators should consider any changes required in their risk assessment, for example increased frequency of buses. Consider the safety of bus drivers and other staff helping passengers board, and put appropriate measures put in place. Follow the guidance for multi-modal transport operators.

Airlines should consider boarding and disembarking passengers in ways that achieve social distancing and control the risk of transmission. Take into account the loading and layout of aircraft, facilities available at the gate, and the requirements of passengers with protected characteristics.

Clean and disinfect terminal infrastructure and all equipment regularly. Increase the frequency of cleaning as required due to traffic and use.

On board aircraft

Measures to manage the risk of transmission on board aircraft will vary depending on the size of the vehicle, passenger load and cabin configuration.

In England, Scotland and Wales passengers must wear a face covering on board airline services. In Northern Ireland it is recommended that passengers wear face coverings on board. Airlines may also require passengers to wear a face covering under conditions of carriage.

Where possible and where mass and balance allow, enable social distancing among passengers of different households or support bubbles, where relevant. Consider:

  • seat allocations
  • passengers not facing each other
  • ventilation
  • reduced movement of passengers within aircraft
  • reduced interaction between passengers and aircrew
  • processes for isolation of symptomatic passengers
  • pre-sealed and pre-prepared food and drink

Where possible, airlines should inform passengers in advance on the measures being taken to minimise the risk of transmission on flights. Consider sharing information on seat layouts and planned load factors so passengers can make informed decisions on booking and before check-in.

Cleaning of aircraft

Review cleaning protocols to limit coronavirus transmission. Include who will carry out cleaning activity and risk controls for individuals undertaking cleaning. Also consider the detailed EASA and ICAO guidance on cleaning of aircraft and advice from aircraft manufacturers.

Clean passenger and crew areas at an appropriate frequency to accommodate safe operations for the passengers and crew.  The frequency should account for the operation of the aircraft and the potential exposure of an infected person. This might typically include cleaning passenger areas (and crew areas if the crew changes) between flights.

Consider providing sanitation wipes to customers to clean the surfaces around them. Address safe collection of tissues, used wipes and other used items from passengers. Consider cleaning the plastic aircraft security briefing sheets after every flight. In-flight magazines present minimal risk, however, consider removing them as part of on-board hygiene measures. Headphones, blankets, pillows and leather seats should be cleaned after every flight.

Health and safety promotional materials

Airlines must provide the latest public health advice to passengers during international flights into the UK.

Airlines must provide the latest public health advice to passengers during international flights into the UK:

Facilities

Reduce on-board service to the minimum necessary to ensure comfort and wellbeing of passengers and limit the contact between crew members and passengers.

Ask passengers to remain seated as much as possible.

Consider additional measures, such as:

  • limiting duty free or other non-essential product sales on board and accompanying these with procedures to minimise the contact between crew and passengers
  • reducing the food and drink service
  • using pre-packaged and sealed food and drink products
  • using contactless payments, wherever possible
  • implementing systems to avoid queueing or crowding around toilets
  • providing cleaning materials and hand sanitiser so people can wash their hands before entering and after leaving toilets
  • making passenger announcements on coronavirus guidance in the arrival country

Air filtration on board

In general, maximise total cabin airflow and take care to avoid blocking air vents (particularly along the floor). Consider the ICAO guidance on air travel and where relevant consult with the aircraft manufacturer.

Crew management

Consider guidance from the Health and Safety Executive on risk assessments, any specific CAA guidance on protecting cabin crew, and guidance from EASA and ICAO in developing risk controls for cabin crew.

Where possible and practical, depending on the aircraft configuration and crew composition:

  • segregate crew and passengers
  • direct each cabin crew member to perform duties in only one sector of the cabin
  • designate a toilet for crew use only
  • do not share safety demonstration equipment between crew members
  • try to maintain consistent teams when rostering flight crew
  • restrict flight deck access as far as possible while also maintaining the safety of all flights

This will enable easier identification of individuals who might be at greater risk should an on-board infection be identified.

Instruct cabin crew members to avoid touching passengers’ belongings/hand luggage as much as possible.

Risk assessments should address controls needed for shift change overs on longer flights, layovers and to maintain social distancing where possible through all aspects of the crew’s responsibilities.

Symptomatic passengers on board

A significant minority of people with coronavirus do not show symptoms and when symptoms are shown, these are rarely of sudden onset.

Inform airport and local health authorities and follow their instructions if a passenger suspected of having coronavirus is identified on board before take-off. At this point, if no specific direct contact has taken place between the symptomatic passenger and crew members, no additional measures need to be taken with regards to the management of the crew members, unless as otherwise advised by the local public health authorities.

If, after take-off, a passenger shows symptoms of coronavirus consider the following measures.

Crew should make sure that the passenger is wearing their face covering properly and has additional coverings available to replace it in case it becomes wet after coughing or sneezing. If a face covering cannot be tolerated, the sick person should cover their mouth and nose with tissues when coughing or sneezing. Used face coverings and tissues should be disposed of safely.

The passenger should be isolated on board. Depending on the configuration and to the extent that is practicable, the isolation area should be 2 rows of seats in all directions around the symptomatic passenger.

Isolation areas should be planned, considering the aircraft configuration and minimising the risks of transmission to other passengers. For example, symptomatic passengers can be isolated where they are currently seated by moving other passengers, or by moving the symptomatic passenger to the rear of the aircraft.

If possible, the toilet closest to the suspected passenger should be specifically designated for them and not be used by the rest of the passengers or the crew.

Where possible, the senior cabin crew member should designate specific crew member(s) to provide the necessary in-flight service to the isolation area(s). If a cabin crew member had prior contact with the symptomatic passenger, then this should be considered in such designation. Designated crew should make use of the PPE in the aircraft’s universal precaution kit. Minimise close contact with other crew members. Avoid unnecessary contact with other passengers, and wash hands as often as practical.

Where possible, the individual air supply nozzle for the symptomatic passenger should be turned off or adjusted to limit the potential spread of respiratory droplets.

If the suspected passenger is travelling accompanied, the passenger’s companions should be also confined in the isolation area even if they do not exhibit any symptoms.

On flights with a passenger showing symptoms of coronavirus, the crew should seek the advice of the PHE Health Control Unit or equivalent for devolved administrations before any passengers disembark.

After the flight has landed and other passengers have disembarked, the isolated passengers should be transferred in accordance with the instructions provided by the local public health authorities. The industry should consider how to manage the risk of coronavirus transmission in the case of the landing being a stopover, during which not all passengers and luggage would disembark/ be offloaded and considering the local public health authority’s approach, which may vary.

Crew should accurately identify passengers located within 2 seats in each direction of symptomatic passenger / passenger group during the flight to ensure accurate post-flight contact tracing.

The crew member designated to provide on-board services for the passenger suspected of having coronavirus, and other crew members who may have been in direct contact with that passenger, should be provided on landing with transportation to facilities where they can clean themselves before having physical contact with other people. Alternatively, after carefully disposing of the used PPE in a double bag and washing their hands for at least 20 seconds and drying them, the respective cabin crew members could be isolated on board before return to base or a layover destination. Aircraft operators should consider a thorough risk assessment to manage the scenario in which the isolated passenger requires help on board until the flight lands.

On arrival in the UK

Public health advice

Airlines should provide the latest public health advice:

Airports should:

There are different rules on self-isolation and travel corridors, depending on which part of the UK people arrive in:

Border requirements for entry into UK

Airports should encourage passengers to consider the guidance on border requirements and immigration.

Everyone entering the UK must complete a passenger locator form to provide journey and contact details before travelling to the UK.

People need to complete the form before travelling to the UK. They can complete it up to 48 hours before they enter the UK.

There are exemptions for a very small number of cases.

People will need to show the completed form on arrival at the UK border, either by printing a copy, or showing it on their phone.

Social distancing in the arrivals area

In addition to implementing safe passenger flows consider the following to maintain social distancing in the arrivals area:

  • distribution of flight arrivals at gates within each terminal, and how to spread arrivals to maximise distancing between passengers
  • dedicated staff to monitor and encourage compliance of social distancing in the arrivals hall
  • floor markings and signage and electronic boards to encourage social distancing
  • greater use of signage and announcements on inbound bus transfers and within outbound areas

Consider the following to enable new arrivals to complete the passenger locator form while maintaining social distancing:

  • remind passengers of the requirement to complete the passenger location form by:
    • inbound flight announcements
    • flight crew upon disembarkation
    • tannoy announcement at arrival and departure gates
  • before immigration control have dedicated staff check and help passengers complete the passenger locator form
  • provide tablet devices to enable passengers to complete the passenger locator form
  • separate passengers who need to complete the passenger locator form from passengers who can proceed through immigration control
    • where space permits, dedicate an area before the arrivals queue for passengers to complete the passenger locator form – this could include separating passengers with protective screens or tensator toppers

Baggage reclaim

Airports are encouraged to refer to ICAO guidance to manage the risk of coronavirus transmission for ground handlers.

Encourage passengers to follow social distancing guidelines and keep a distance from others at baggage reclaim. Make hand washing facilities or hand sanitiser available to passengers.

Inform arriving passengers to leave the baggage reclaim area as soon as possible after collecting their baggage to minimise the possibility of transmission.

Make announcements and display posters throughout the airport advising passengers about travelling safely on their onward journey and self-isolation requirements

Consider using protective separators for lost luggage.

Consider encouraging passengers to use a baggage delivery service where feasible to minimise contact points.

Leaving the airport

Inform arriving passengers to leave the terminal as quickly as possible to minimise the risk of transmission. Use measures such as floor markings and signage to assist passengers to maintain social distancing.

Inform passengers that it is against the law to meet people they do not live with in a group larger than 6 (unless they are meeting as a household or support bubble) both indoors and outdoors in England.

Passengers arriving in Wales should be informed that it against the law to meet within a group that does not include members of the same extended household and is larger than 6. Stricter rules will apply for residents of areas under local lockdown.

Inform meet and greet individuals that access to the terminal is limited to passengers, crew members and staff. Where meet and greet cannot be avoided (for example passengers requiring assistance) set up a meet and greet area away from the main passenger flow. This will reduce the risk of the arriving passengers crossing paths with other people.

Work with relevant organisations to consider how to maintain social distancing and put other appropriate risk controls in place for passengers using hire cars, car parks and shuttles to the car parks.

Status and scope of this guidance

This guidance will be regularly updated.

Airports, aircraft operators and other service providers in the aviation industry will need to translate the principles and examples in this guidance into specific actions.

This guidance must be considered alongside legal duties, guidance from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and international obligations, including guidance issued by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA).

Obligations under both health and safety and employment legislation continue to apply.

This guidance should be considered alongside the multimodal operator guidance. It should be implemented in a collaborative and coordinated way with the wider transport industry.

Airports and aircraft operators should seek to innovate and look to new technology, where possible, in order to manage risks from coronavirus.

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 for Scotland.

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

  6. First published.