Airline face mask requirements for children
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Face masks have become a reality of traveling during the pandemic, and most U.S. airlines have required them since early May 2020. At first, this rule applied only to adults. But moving into the holiday, and with cases of COVID-19 growing exponentially, airlines are starting to take extra precautions and are requiring children over the age of two to wear masks over their mouth and nose as well.
If you’re traveling in the next month or so, you’re probably wondering which airlines have placed these requirements for children wearing masks and how you can accommodate this requirement while keeping your children safe and comfortable.
Which airlines require face masks for children?
Although there are currently no federal government or Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requirements for wearing masks in flight, here are the requirements that each of the major airlines has in place for children wearing masks while traveling. If your airline isn’t on this list, check their website directly for the most current requirements.
Delta requires face masks from the check-in desks through every other Delta touchpoint. This includes boarding gate areas, check-in, Delta Sky Club lounges, the gateway to the airplane, and the entire duration of your flight. There is an exception when you are drinking or eating, but they encourage you to limit the time your mask is off to avoid the risk of exposure.
At this point, Delta requires everyone over the age of two to abide by these guidelines.
Children under the age of 2 and young children who cannot maintain a face covering are exempt from the mask requirement on Delta.
United requires every traveler over the age of two to wear face coverings at all United kiosks and service counters, United Club locations, at the gate, while boarding, throughout the entire flight, and in the baggage claim areas.
You can take your mask off while you are eating or drinking, but you must put it on right away after you are finished.
If you are flying on American Airlines, you will be required to wear a mask that fits securely against your face and covers the mouth and nose area. Children under the age of two are not required to wear a face covering.
American Airlines doesn’t accept masks with exhaust valves or masks made of materials like mesh or lace fabrics. Masks must cover the nose and mouth. And while face shields are allowed, you must also wear a face covering.
Passengers can remove their face covering briefly while eating or drinking, but otherwise, the mask must be in place at all times. You are requested to bring your own mask, but some masks are available through the airline if you are unable to do so or forget.
Passengers over the age of two traveling on Frontier Airlines are required to wear a face mask at Frontier ticket counters, gate areas and while onboard the aircraft. Before you board, Frontier attendants are conducting touchless temperature screenings at the gate. All crew and passengers may board if their temperature is below 100.4 degrees.
Make sure that your face mask meets the Frontier guidelines before you travel. Any triangle bandanas face coverings with vents, valves or mesh material; face shields (used instead of a face mask) are not accepted. We all know how picky Frontier is with their carry-on baggage restrictions, so we can guess that they are just as vigilant with their mask requirements.
Southwest requires its customers to wear a face-covering over their nose and mouth at all times. Children under the age of two are exempt from these requirements, but they are the only exception allowed. Southwest also encourages its customers to bring their own hand sanitizer. They describe an acceptable face mask as a well-secured cloth or mask that fits snugly against the face, covers the nose and mouth and is secured under the chin.
Where can you find masks for children?
Wearing a mask can be like wearing any other fun accessory when presented to a child in the right light. There is no shortage of cute masks designed specifically for children of all ages. Here are a few popular retailers to check out:
- The Honest Company – Sells a children-sized two-pack of face masks for about $23. These cotton masks are safe and breathable, with plenty of fun patterns from which to choose.
- The Gap Disney Face Masks – You can find a three-pack of Disney themed children’s sized face masks for just $9 currently at The Gap.
- Old Navy – Animal themed face masks are just one of the cute child-sized face mask options that Old Navy is selling right now.
Tips to keep children safe and comfortable wearing mask
The experts have a lot to say about helping children safely wear a face mask, so we should first refer to them. Here are some additional suggestions:
Have your children wear their mask before the flight – At this point, there is a good chance that your children have already become accustomed to wearing a face mask. It has been a part of everyday life for a while now. That said, they might not be used to wearing it for an extended amount of time. Practice wearing face masks for a few hours a day leading up to your flight so that it feels natural to them.
Seeing parents and family members wear masks – Behavioral psychologists often refer to this as modeling. If your children see you wearing a face mask, it becomes normal and less scary or annoying. Watching you consistently put a mask on when leaving the house gives them the message that they should do the same to stay safe.
Make wearing a mask a special and personal event – We all have plenty of time at home right now, so why not dedicate a craft night to decorating face masks? Your child will feel like they have ownership of their mask when they have designed it themselves, and this can help encourage them to wear it consistently.
How to make a disposable mask fit a child
Many people find that one quick and easy solution is to adjust an adult mask to fit a child when traveling. When making a disposable adult mask more comfortable for children, it is important to achieve the right fit. Avoid tight or chaffing masks by following these steps to get the correct fit with a disposable mask.
- Fold the mask in half (lengthwise).
- Pinch the straps on each side of the mask and tie them into a knot
- Once the knots are tied, open the mask slightly and push the inside of the mask to the outside. And you’ll have a smaller mask that is a better fit for a child.
Traveling during the pandemic can be challenging, especially with children. The rules around wearing face masks have been fairly consistent for adults but have varied slightly for children. To be correctly prepared before your flight, check your airline’s face mask policy. Communicate this with your children and practice putting on their masks so that there are no surprises at the airport. It will help everyone feel more comfortable about their travel.
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