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

Travel to the UK

People arriving in the UK from abroad, do not need to:

This applies regardless of vaccination status.

This also applies to people transiting ‘airside’ or ‘landside’ through England.

General principles

Operators should consider this guidance alongside general guidance on:

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

TheUKaviation 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. 

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

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

The measures set out in this document should be applied, where relevant, to general and business aviation.

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.

National transport operator guidance

There is also separate multimodal transport operator guidance containing relevant information for aviation operators.

Read more about:

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:

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:

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:

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 thisPPEfree of charge to workers who need it. AnyPPEprovided 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 byCAAandECAC. Organisations need to ensure that actions taken to control risks of coronavirus transmission do not disproportionately impact those with protected characteristics.

Who should be at work

Employers should follow the Working safely guidance.

Employers should remain responsive to workers’ needs, especially with regard to scheduling vaccinations or booster doses. Employers should adopt practices that help to reduce the risks to individuals in the workplace.

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.

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

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

In England, there is no legal requirement to wear a face covering. The government suggests that you wear a face-covering in crowded and enclosed spaces where you may come into contact with other people you do not normally meet. 

Operators are free to set their own conditions of carriage.

There may be different rules in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Read more about:

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

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

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 are not legally required on public transport in England.

Passenger journey

Follow these measures at each stage of the passenger journey.

Coronavirus testing before travel to theUK

People do not need to take any COVID-19 tests before travel to theUK.

Booking a flight

Warn passengers of the risk of becoming stranded overseas if new restrictions are imposed suddenly (via up-to-dateFCDOtravel notices):

You do not need to make passengers aware of any health measures and restrictions on re-entering theUKbefore booking travel.

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

See also general guidance on entering theUK.

Airlines should encourage symptomatic passengers to follow public health advice. 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.

At the airport

Where possible, airports should help passengers navigate the airport safely. 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.

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. FollowUKpublic health cleaning guidance.

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 advised to follow public health advice.

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.

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.

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, 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.

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

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 theUKhave 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:

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.

ConsiderPPErequirements 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.

Use signage and floor markings to prevent queues forming.

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

Retailers throughout airports should follow government guidance for retail. Encourage retailers, where possible, to 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 possible.

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

Where airports have passenger transit systems (including Gatwick and Stansted) operators should carry out a risk assessment to identify suitable measures to lower the risk of transmission. For example, increasing the number of 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, consider implementing measures in waiting areas andat departure gates to prevent queues forming. For example, consider one-way passenger flows, floor markings and signage.

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

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 in place.

Airlines should consider boarding and disembarking passengers in ways that 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.

Airlines may require passengers to wear a face covering under conditions of carriage.


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.

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

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:

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

Consider guidance from the Health and Safety Executive on risk assessments, any specificCAAguidance on protecting cabin crew, and guidance fromEASAandICAOin developing risk controls for cabin crew.

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

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 and layovers.

Inform airport and local health authorities and follow their instructions if a passenger suspected of having coronavirus is identified on board before take-off.

If, after take-off, a passenger shows symptoms of coronavirus the crew should seek the advice of theUKHealth Security Agency (UKHSA) 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.

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 usedPPEin 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 theUK

Airports should display government coronavirus posters prominently and make leaflets easily accessible for all travellers.

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

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

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.

Consider using protective separators for lost luggage.

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

Local and national restrictions

Operators should consider this guidance alongside any national coronavirus guidance:

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 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.