- Passenger Health Safety - COVID-19
- Passengers general
These FAQs cover the measures put in place for the health safety of air travel with respect to COVID-19. They are presented in the same sequence as the EASA/ECDC guidelines: at all times, before arriving at the departure airport, at the airport, on board the aircraft and at the arrival airport. The proposed questions and replies will be regularly evaluated and updated.
Do I still have to cover my face if I sneeze?
Yes, remember the “respiratory etiquette”. You should cover your mouth and nose with a paper towel when sneezing or coughing, even when wearing a face mask. If this is not possible, cough or sneeze into your flexed elbow.
Can I take my sanitiser gel on-board?
There should be enough alcohol based hand sanitising solution
at the airport. However, you can still bring your own and take it on board providing it complies with the restrictions, dimensions and quantity that apply to carry-on liquids.
What happens if I don’t follow the preventive measures in place?
If you do not follow the instructions, then you may not be allowed to travel.
- You may be refused access to the airport terminal building, to the aircraft cabin, or removed from the cabin, according to national/local legislation, if you do not follow the instructions given, which are there for the safety of all. Depending on local regulations, you may face additional consequences as determined by the local authorities.
- If the aircraft is already in flight, the procedures relating to handling cases of unruly passengers may be applied if you do not comply with the instructions of the cabin crew. Further actions may be taken by the local authorities at the destination airport, in line with local regulations, as a result of actions that endangers the flight and health safety of other passengers and crew members.
Depending on local requirements or recommendations, you may be subject to certain consequences if you do not follow the mandatory requirements in place at the departure / arrival destination.
Are the preventive measures binding or just recommendations?
The preventive measures included in the EASA/ECDC COVID-19 Aviation Health Safety Protocol on physical distancing, respiratory etiquette, meticulous hand hygiene and avoiding touching the face, nose, eyes and mouth must be followed for the safety of all air travellers and aviation personnel. It is recommended to wear a medical face mask throughout the journey. The recommended measures will be regularly evaluated and updated in line with changes in knowledge of the risk of transmission as well as with development of other diagnostic or the evolution of the pandemic.
It is safe to take a flight?
Yes, EASA believes that member states, national health authorities and air transport operators have put everything possible in place to make it safe to fly. However an important contribution comes from the passengers themselves, who have a responsibility to themselves, other travellers and air personnel to follow the procedures put in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
It is not possible to guarantee 100% prevention of infection in this pandemic, but we have defined all possible and practical measures in the EASA/ECDC guidelines to make air travel safe again.
What is meant by a “medical face mask”?
A medical face mask (also known as a surgical or procedure mask) is a medical device covering the mouth, nose and chin ensuring a barrier that limits the transition of an infective agent between the hospital staff and the patient. They are used to prevent large respiratory droplets and splashes from reaching the mouth and the nose of the wearer and help reduce and/or control at the source the spread of large respiratory droplets from the person wearing the face mask. Medical masks comply with the requirements defined in European Standard EN 14683:2019+AC:2019. Non-medical face masks (or ‘community’ masks) include various forms of self-made and commercially available masks, including re-usable face covers made of cloth, other textiles and other disposable materials. They are not standardised and are not intended for use in healthcare settings or by healthcare professionals. Non-medical face masks are in use and recommended in some EU/EEA countries. Limited indirect evidence from experimental studies has shown that non-medical face masks may decrease the release to the environment of respiratory droplets, although there was conflicting evidence about the relative efficiency of medical versus non-medical face masks.
And what is meant by “Non-medical face mask”?
A non-medical face mask (or ‘community’ mask) include various forms of self-made and commercially available masks, including re-usable face covers made of cloth, other textiles and other disposable materials. They are not standardised and are not intended for use in healthcare settings or by healthcare professionals. Non-medical face masks are in use and recommended in some EU/EEA countries. Limited indirect evidence from experimental studies has shown that non-medical face masks may decrease the release to the environment of respiratory droplets, although there was conflicting evidence about the relative efficiency of medical versus non-medical face masks.
Will I be able to get new medical face masks at the airport?
Passengers should bring a sufficient supply of medical face masks for the entire duration of their journey. Airports have been encouraged to offer the purchase of masks at their premises (e.g. vending machines) in case passengers have been unable to acquire sufficient medical face masks beforehand. We recommend to contact the departure airport and clarify this issue before your journey.
I did not have time to wash my hands, what should I do?
Where hand hygiene – washing with water and soap - is not possible, use alcohol based hand sanitising solution.
If I am wearing gloves, do I need to disinfect them or throw them away?
Hand hygiene – washing of hands with soap – should be reinforced at all times and is of paramount importance. The wearing of gloves may lead to a false sense of security and be counterproductive unless you are very strict about following the correct measures for glove wearing. If you choose to wear disposable gloves, they should be regularly changed and the used ones disposed of safely. Note that not all types of reusable gloves can be disinfected with alcohol-based solution. Some can deteriorate and contribute to spreading contamination. The disinfection of gloves is therefore not recommended. On the whole, it is better for passengers to follow good hand hygiene than to wear gloves.
Limiting direct contact (touch) with surfaces at the airport and in the aircraft is a good way to protect yourself.
Do I have to wear a mask?
Yes, if authorities in the country of departure or arrival require to wear masks in public transport and transport hubs.
Otherwise the wearing of medical face masks is recommended for all passengers and persons within the airport and aircraft.
Please consult the European Commission’s ‘Travel during the coronavirus pandemic’ page for more information.
Where can I throw away a used face mask?
Airports and airlines have been asked to instruct passengers on the safe disposal of used medical face masks: for example through no-touch bins and single-use waste bags. Please look for specific information on this during your journey.
Although medical face masks may contain plastic fibers or paper, they are not recyclable.
How will I know what preventive measures are being applied to my particular journey?
Please consult the European Commission’s ‘Travel during the coronavirus pandemic’ page for more information.
In addition, keep your eyes and ears open! Airports and airlines will regularly instruct passengers via signs and announcements about the preventive measures in place at various stages of the journey in the airport and on board the aircraft. You will also be advised of the consequences of not adhering to such measures.
I am planning my holidays, where can I find the travel restrictions that apply for various countries ?
Please consult the European Commission’s ‘Travel during the coronavirus pandemic’ page for more information.
You should check government information in the country where you live (or whose citizenship you hold) which should give an overview of what travel restrictions apply for its residents.
Contact the airline you are flying with to check preventive measures and possible quarantine measures for each country you plan to visit on your trip.
Can EU countries impose quarantine for passengers that arrive at their airports?
Although the EU has put measures into place to help facilitate safe and free movement inside the EU during the COVID-19 pandemic, Member States’ local public health authorities can impose additional restrictions such as quarantine for unvaccinated passengers if they are necessary and proportionate to safeguard public health.
What happens if the airline I fly with is not following the recommendations such as medical face masks for example?
Passenger rights in this and any other circumstance are outside of EASA’s responsibilities. We advise you to consult the dedicated European Commission site 'Travel during the coronavirus pandemic', where you will find useful information regarding the current COVID-19 situation, including whom to contact if you are not satisfied with the answer/support you receive from your airline.
Airlines are recommended to encourage passengers and crews to wear masks. However, they will not impose particular policy unless required so by the local / national authority.
Preventive measures onboard such as orientation and design of the seats, HEPA filters and using own masks decreases the risk of contamination during flight even if airline policies do not require such measures.
Which masks are allowed?
Medical face masks should be worn. “Community” or “hand-made” masks do not achieve high level of protection. This is because a medical face mask is manufactured to a known standard. This is not true for community masks and handmade masks. The primary reason for wearing a mask is to stop transfer of the virus to other people – bearing in mind that some people may have the virus but show no symptoms. Therefore, everyone should wear a medical face mask to ensure a standard level of protection.
Where higher standards for masks are required on national level, travellers should comply with such standards.
Do we have to keep physical distance at the airport?
Physical distancing between individuals of at least 1 metre is recommended where possible.
I am travelling with children and/or an elderly person with breathing problems, do they have to wear a medical face mask?
Persons with respiratory symptoms are strongly recommended to wear a medical face mask irrespective of the requirements in the particular flight.
The medical face masks (also named “surgical masks”) should be considered the minimum standard to be used, unless stricter requirements are still imposed by some public health authorities. Children 5 years old or below and persons that cannot wear a face mask due to medical reasons should be exempted, while for children 6 to 11 a risk assessment should be performed in accordance with WHO COVID-19 infection prevention and control living guideline: mask use in community settings.
How long should I wear a medical face mask for?
It is recommended to wear a medical face mask for the entire duration of the journey.
Typically, medical face masks should be replaced after 4 hours (unless otherwise advised by the manufacturer), or after a shorter period if they have become wet or soiled. For this reason, please evaluate the duration of your journey and take with yourself a sufficient number of medical face masks for the entire duration of your journey.
What are ‘very high-risk countries or areas with community circulation of Variants of Concern (VOCs)’ and where can I get information?
The European Commission has launched a website called ‘Re-open EU’, with up-to-date information on the travel and health situation for European countries.
You can also consult the ‘SARS-CoV-2 variants dashboard’ updated and maintained by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) for more information.
Otherwise contact the relevant authorities in the country of departure and arrival.
I am fully vaccinated, do I need to comply with preventive measures from airlines and airports?
Yes, all passengers should follow and observe the COVID-19 protocol, even if you are fully vaccinated. This will help all of us to stay safe during travelling.
At what stage in the journey do I need to show my digital certificate?
Currently many member states have suspended checking the digital covid certificate. However, this may vary from state to state. Please consult the applicable national requirements for the country of destination.
What information is available for passengers regarding preventive measures?
Airlines and airport operators, individually or via their representative bodies, should provide health promotional materials in advance as well as on board the aircraft, explaining all the risk mitigation measures put in place, such as the wearing of medical face masks, hygiene measures, reduced service, air filtration, ventilation and exchange, to reassure passengers and increase their adherence to the implemented measures.
Preventive measures are updated on a frequent basis, in line with the development of the pandemic. Make sure you check with the relevant airlines, airports and national authorities right before you start your travel.
What happens if a symptomatic passenger is identified at the airport?
The airline is required to inform their passengers if any symptomatic passengers have been identified in the airport by the public health authorities.
Such passengers may not be allowed to continue their travel subsequent to national or local requirements, if the symptoms observed indicate that they may have COVID-19.
I noticed that I have some symptoms, what should I do? Will I be reimbursed if I do not travel?
If you show symptoms at any time in the 10 days before your flight, you should:
- Inform your general practitioner and your local health authorities, who may recommend a test for COVID-19.
- Contact your airline to advise them you are not able to travel subject to the test results
- Your airline will advise you on the precise rebooking or reimbursement procedures, and their applicability for your case.
How clean are the surfaces? Can I touch them?
Where possible, travellers should avoid contact and unnecessary touching of surfaces in all situations, to minimise the spread of COVID-19. Airports and airlines have been made aware of the need for enhanced cleaning activities both in volume and frequency and for increased ventilation of facilities. EASA has also issued special instructions with respect to aircraft disinfection.
How are environments and surfaces at airports and on board cleaned and disinfected?
The EASA guidelines recommend the regular cleaning and disinfecting of all frequently touched surfaces (e.g. door handles, banister rails, buttons). Particular attention should also be paid to plastic security screening trays as well as to facilities such as airport lavatories. Hand sanitiser points should be made readily available.
What precautions will be taken to avoid contamination via air conditioning systems?
Airport operators have been advised to ensure proper air ventilation of their facilities. This includes minimising the percentage of air recirculation and favouring when possible the use of fresh air, in accordance with international guidance for ventilation of indoor public spaces.
Furthermore, heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems should be optimised to ensure a high rate of air change. In older facilities, subject to airport/terminal construction and meteorological conditions, windows can be kept open for additional supply of fresh air, subject to the absence of horizontal air flows.
Will shops, playgrounds and smoking areas be open at the terminal?
Please check with the airport before setting out on your journey, for example by checking its website. Airports should advise passengers about how to make use of airport facilities and services, in line with national regulations.
Are there any special luggage handling processes due to COVID-19?
Some airports have special baggage disinfection measures in place. You should bear this in mind when choosing which check-in luggage to take on your trip and avoid bags that could be damaged or disfigured if treated with disinfectant. For more information, contact your airline and the airports you will depart from, arrive at and transit through.
Can I take my sanitizing gel on board? Is it possible to exceed the 100 ml security limit?
You can carry, in accordance to the security rules, liquids/gels in individual containers with a capacity of 100 ml or less, all of them shall be contained in a transparent re-sealable plastic bag which capacity shall not exceed one litre.
However, due to COVID, some authorities have allowed for additional and temporary exemptions with regard to the carriage of sanitizer gels / liquids. Therefore, if you intend to take sanitizing gels in the amount exceeding the standard restrictions, please contact the airport of your departure or the airline you are flying with to obtain updated detailed information on the applicable regulations.
How does boarding work under the COVID-19 measures?
For more information on boarding procedures, please contact your airline.
I can’t judge how much extra time I should allow for checks and procedures, what is the recommendation?
Check the website of your departure airport and with your airline for information. You need to allow sufficient time to cover all steps needed: checking in your luggage, at the security check, passport control (if required), at the gate and the boarding of your flight.
Is the aircraft disinfected before boarding and after each flight?
Airlines are required to perform the cleaning and disinfection of their aircraft in accordance with the Safety Information Bulletin SIB 2022-03 ‘Enhanced cleaning and disinfection of aircraft surfaces – Operational Recommendations’.
Do I have to check in online or use the self-check in at the airport?
If you need to check in at the airport, you should follow local instructions to use self-check-in kiosks or proceed to a check-in counter.
Airlines and airports are setting up their facilities to ensure that physical distancing can be respected wherever feasible, especially during check-in, security check, pre-boarding and boarding. When the recommended physical distancing of 1 metre is not possible -due to infrastructure or operational constraints, passengers should follow the additional risk mitigation measures such as hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette.
Passengers should look for floor markings or signs indicating the arrangements in that particular location.
There was a suspected case in my airplane, will the aircraft be disinfected?
After removal of any COVID-19 suspected case, cleaning and disinfection of the aircraft should be performed in accordance with the Safety Information Bulletin SIB 2022-03 ‘Enhanced cleaning and disinfection of aircraft surfaces – Operational Recommendations’.
What will happen if I start feeling unwell during the flight?
If, after take-off, you start to experience symptoms compatible with COVID-19 such as Fever or chills, Cough, Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, Fatigue, Muscle or body aches, Headache, New loss of taste or smell, Sore throat, Congestion or runny nose, Nausea or vomiting, Diarrhoea, you should immediately contact the cabin crew and advise them of the situation. You can expect the cabin crew to respond by:
- Ensuring you are wearing your medical face mask properly and have additional masks available to replace it in case it becomes wet after coughing or sneezing.
- If you are having difficulty breathing, medical assistance and oxygen supplementation should be offered.
- You may be asked to move to another seat away from other passengers. See 'Will passengers that show symptoms be isolated on board?'.
My travel partner/ my relative shows some symptoms, what should we do?
If you are accompanying the suspected passenger, you ma also be asked to war a face mask for the entire duration of your travel, even if you do not exhibit any symptoms.
Will passengers that show symptoms be isolated on board?
Passengers who develop symptoms on board the aircraft will be asked to wear a face mask and may in certain circumstances be isolated from other passengers.
What happens if someone near me on the flight is taken ill?
Subject to the policy of the national public health authority, Passengers who were seated in the same section of aircraft with the suspected case, as defined by seat configuration, are usually considered close contacts of the suspected COVID-19 case. They might need to be interviewed by the entry country public health authorities if the suspected case is confirmed. Depending on the configuration (e.g. if the entire cabin of the aircraft is one section) it may in fact mean all the passengers in the particular flight. In addition, if contact tracing discovers a new case among the passengers, then contact tracing of all the passengers in the particular flight should be considered.
Are there special procedures in place on board the aircraft to prevent spread of the virus?
Airlines have been provided with specialist technical instructions to ensure the air quality in the cabin is as high as possible. The air quality in the cabin is higher than many of us regularly breathe on the ground. This is because the entire air supply is typically exchanged every 3-5 minutes. In addition, most modern aircraft use high quality filters, known as HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) filters, which are fine enough to trap the viral load and release clean air.
Passengers themselves are expected to behave responsibly for their own welfare and for the good of their fellow passengers. In particular, you will be expected to adopt:
- Hand hygiene, particularly before eating or drinking and after use of the toilet
- Appropriate use of medical face masks
- Respiratory etiquette – cough or sneeze into a paper towel or flexed elbow
- Limiting contact – do not touch cabin surfaces unnecessarily and try to stay in the seat as much as possible
- Reducing the use of individual air supply nozzles as far as possible, unless otherwise advised by the cabin crew on your flight
What happens in case of emergency?
In case of emergency, follow the instructions as shown during the safety demonstration. If cabin pressure is lost and oxygen masks are released, passengers should remove their medical face masks before putting on the aircraft oxygen masks and follow any further instructions from the air crew. As always, remember to secure your own supply of oxygen before helping others, such as children. Note that air crew members will remove their protective face masks in case of any emergency, so as to facilitate the communication of instructions to passengers.
How is air recirculated in the cabin and is it safe?
The quality of air provided during a flight is very high. This is due to frequent exchange of air (the entire air supply is typically exchanged every 3-5 minutes) and the High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters which are used on board of most modern aircraft. Airlines and airport operators will work together to ensure that passengers are not kept on board an aircraft without proper ventilation for longer than 30 minutes.
What happens if a passenger “misbehaves” or doesn’t want to follow the rules?
Where national requirements are still in force regarding COVID-19 specific measures, passengers who do not voluntarily follow such requirements or abide by crew instructions will be treated as “unruly passengers”, the term used in the industry for passengers who misbehave on board, for example through intoxication or through verbal or physical altercations with others on board.
This can lead to immediate action on board to curtail such activities, with possible further consequences on landing, depending on the local regulations.
Where covid-19 are not required, you should respect the choice of other passengers.
Have a look at our communication "Not On My Flight".
I forgot to take an additional medical face mask and the one I am wearing is wet. What should I do?
Passengers should ensure sufficient supply of medical face masks for the duration of their journey. Airlines may carry a number of medical face masks on board, especially for long-haul flights where the need to change masks may be advised by public health authorities. However you should not rely on airlines to supply you with face masks, as the number of face masks carried by the airline might be limited.
Are there special procedures in place during baggage claim and customs?
The general process remains the same, but do not forget to follow all preventive measures, including physical distancing, hand hygiene and wearing a medical face mask also at the arrival airport.
Passengers should leave the arrival terminal as soon as possible after completing any border formalities and collecting their checked luggage so as to minimise the possibility of transmission of COVID-19.
The use of baggage delivery services, where the passenger’s baggage can be delivered directly to their hotel or home, are encouraged.
What should I do with any used face masks?
Used face masks should be discarded safely in a separate tightly closed waste bag, which can be disposed as regular waste. Please note that although they may contain plastic fibers or paper, medical face masks are not recyclable.
If I show symptoms upon arrival at my final destination, what will happen to me? Will I be sent back to the departure airport?
Passengers showing symptoms following the assessment and who are suspected as being positive for COVID-19, will be required to comply with the instructions of the local public health authorities in terms of testing, transport and quarantine.
Check ‘Re-Open EU’ for more details.
Can I be greeted by someone at the gate in the arrival airport?
Please check with your destination airport for more information.
What is the digital Passenger Locator Form (dPLF) and when is it used?
Passenger Locator Forms (PLFs) are used by public health authorities to facilitate cross border contact tracing in case travellers are exposed to an infectious disease during their travel by plane, ship (cruise/ferry), rail, bus or automobile. Information that travellers provide in PLFs can be used by public health authorities in the departure, transit and destination countries to rapidly contact travellers and other close contacts of an infected person, with the goal of protecting the health of travellers’ and their contacts, as well as preventing further disease spread.
Currently many states have suspended the use of the PLF. However, please consult the European Commission’s ‘Travel during the coronavirus pandemic’ page before you start your travel.
Check the web-based application ‘European Digital Passenger Locator Form (dPLF)’ for more information on the form.
What is the difference between ‘rapid disembarkation’ and ‘evacuation’?
Passengers may encounter crew members’ sudden instruction to leave the aircraft as soon as possible. Not every such instruction means that ‘evacuation’ is taking place. In some situations, passengers are instructed to rapidly disembark, not to ‘evacuate’. So, what is the difference between a ‘rapid disembarkation’ and an ‘evacuation’? The below provides some explanation:
Rapid disembarkation (also referred to as ‘rapid deplaning’, ‘precautionary deplaning’, ‘precautionary disembarkation’) is a precautionary egress from the aircraft in situations assessed by the crew members as deviating from normal conditions but not being an immediate emergency, i.e. not posing an immediate threat to passengers and crew members on board, but which may escalate into an emergency. Rapid disembarkation usually happens at the airport.
Aircraft doors which were used for boarding are also used for a rapid disembarkation, i.e. with stairs or airbridge(s).
Emergency exits and slides are not used in a rapid disembarkation unless the crew members decide that this has become necessary and will give the relevant command to passengers.
Rapid disembarkation is a rapid egress from the aircraft, therefore passengers and crew members will leave all their belongings on board unless they are instructed otherwise.
Crew members’ instruction (i.e. words used) for a rapid disembarkation will be different from that to evacuate. It is essential that passengers listen to what the crew members are saying, remain calm and leave the aircraft as instructed and as soon as possible.
Evacuation is a fast egress from the aircraft in situations declared by the crew members as an emergency, i.e. posing an immediate threat to passengers and crew members on board. Evacuation happens on land terrain or in water.
All usable aircraft exits and slides/rafts are used in an evacuation. Passengers and crew members must leave all their belongings on board and immediately proceed to the nearest usable exit. It is vital that passengers listen to crew members’ commands, remain calm (panicking will not help), ensure they have their life jacket if in water, and leave the aircraft as commanded by the crew members and as fast as possible.
My luggage during evacuation
In the unlikely event the safety of the aircraft and its occupants is compromised, it may be necessary to evacuate the aircraft.
Evacuation is a fast egress from the aircraft in situations declared by cabin crew or pilots as an emergency, i.e. posing an immediate threat to passengers and crew members on board. Pilots and cabin crew are trained for such situations, however, it is essential that passengers cooperate with the crew and follow their instructions.
Evacuation slides are used when evacuating on land and rafts are used in case of a landing on water (Note: Some aircraft types are not required to be equipped with slides or rafts. Passengers step outside through the exits or, if possible, use the aircraft’s integrated stairs). Evacuating as quickly as possible is a matter of survival.
Evacuation slide allows either one, or maximum two persons to slide down from the aircraft to the ground side-by-side. The speed at which the person reaches the ground is fast and it is essential to adopt a position to protect yourself from flailing or even falling off the evacuation slide. Evacuation raft allows a limited person/weight capacity.
Passengers and crew members must leave their luggage on board. Why is that?
Obstructions, injuries & delays during evacuation
Luggage in the overhead bins might have moved during the impact and luggage stowed under the seats may no longer be close to your seat. Opening the overhead bins may cause the luggage to fall onto you or onto other passengers causing injuries.
Searching and retrieving your luggage from the overhead bins or from under the seats creates an obstruction and slows down those trying to reach the exit. They may push you down, step on you and cause you injuries preventing you from moving and leaving the aircraft.
In addition, there may be low or no visibility at all inside the aircraft due to smoke or power failure of the lights and the aircraft may be damaged. You may trip over, fall down and injure yourself. Retrieving and taking your luggage reduces your chances and the chances of other passengers for a fast egress.
Cabin crew must evacuate all passengers from the aircraft as quickly as possible. They have no time to collect and no space to store luggage at exits. Piles of luggage may block the exit and prevent you from leaving the aircraft quickly, or at all. You will have to look for another usable exit (if there is another usable exit available).
Your protection and damaged slides
Sliding down on the evacuation slide with luggage prevents your own protection (you will not be able to adopt a position to protect yourself) and can cause injuries to you or to others. It slows down the evacuation and blocks the exit preventing it from being used by those remaining on board. Your luggage can damage the evacuation slide.
Each crew member has specific duties during an evacuation to save lives. You will be ordered to leave the aircraft without luggage. Carrying luggage slows you down and can compromise your own survival.
LEAVE YOUR LUGGAGE ON BOARD.
Wearing headphones and earplugs in the aircraft
Passengers often use headphones, connected to their laptops, mobile phones, tablets, etc., to watch movies or to listen to music, or they use headphones/earplugs to eliminate the surrounding noise. Whilst this may provide you – the passenger - with some comfort, it may affect your safety, especially when worn during taxiing, take-off and landing.
Wearing headphones or earplugs lowers your awareness of the surrounding conditions, resulting in more time needed to adapt to the ongoing situation. Your ability to hear announcements made by cabin crew or pilots is reduced. These announcements may contain safety instructions related to the flight, or commands in case of a sudden emergency.
Headphones used for an in-flight entertainment system (either provided by the airline or brought on board by you) may have cords, which are to be plugged-in on the seat or around the video screen on the seatback in front of you. Headphones with cords used during taxiing, take-off and landing create an obstruction for you and for passengers seated next to you and prevent you from moving quickly in case of an evacuation.
Pay attention to the safety demonstration and follow the instructions by your crew members.
Seats by exits (can I sit there?)
Seats in rows leading to exits are often considered as offering more comfort because of the increased space provided at the exit area. The space requirements are set by aircraft certification rules. However, not all passengers are suitable to occupy these seats. A passenger seated by an exit agrees to assist the crew members in case of an evacuation and is willing and able to assist.
Air travel is a safe mode of transport and evacuations do not occur often. Cabin crew and pilots are trained for emergencies, however, some evacuations are events for which cabin crew (or pilots) did not have time to fully brief the passengers (this is so-called ‘unprepared evacuation’). The passenger seated by the exit where no cabin crew member is available, such as the exits over the wings, is expected to act. This includes assessing inside and outside conditions and making a decision if the exit can be opened for evacuation or not, and directing passengers to other exits if the conditions require so. Making a fast and correct judgment is a matter of survival. If the passenger allocated a seat by an exit is suitable to assist the crew, he/she will receive a pre-flight exit briefing on how and when to operate the exit.
Cabin crew may find the passenger unsuitable to assist the crew and will have to move the passenger to another seat row. A seat row leading to an exit is not to be left empty for taxiing, take-off and landing. The cabin crew will find another passenger to occupy the seat by the exit. When assessing the suitability of passengers to occupy seats by exits, cabin crew members consider many aspects, such as the aircraft type, number of exits, the level of difficulty to handle the exit and the assisting evacuation means, the number of passengers on the flight, etc. Passengers who are asked to move away from an ‘exit row/seat’ should not be offended by this action.
Human behaviour, although usually calm and collected under normal circumstances, can change under the pressure of an emergency situation. Passengers, who select, or are allocated seats by exits, should also make their own judgment whether they are suitable to help the crew members and willing to act in case of an unprepared evacuation.
EU rules do not permit some passengers to occupy seats which have a direct access to exits or seats where the passenger’s presence could impede crew members in their duties, obstruct access to equipment or impede evacuation: for example:
- passengers traveling with children,
- unaccompanied children,
- passengers with reduced mobility due to physical disability (sensory or locomotory, permanent or temporary),
- passengers with intellectual disability or impairment,
- any other cause of disability, or age,
- passengers travelling as deportees or inadmissible and prisoners in custody.
The airline may have further detailed policies related to passengers who cannot occupy seats by exits, e.g. passengers who are too young.