Minister Garneau’s appearance before the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities (TRAN) on Main Estimates 2020-21 and Supplementary Estimates (B), 2020-21 held on November 5, 2020


Face Covering Requirement for Air Passengers


Issue/Source: Face Covering Requirement for Air Passengers

Date: OCTOBER 26, 2020

Suggested Responses 

  • The face covering requirement represents an important part of the Government of Canada’s layered approach to keeping travellers safe by mitigating the spread of COVD-19 in the air sector.  
  • Transport Canada requires that face coverings be worn by all passengers ages two (2) and older. This requirement is consistent with the recommendations of the Public Health Agency of Canada. The two departments continue to work closely together to ensure that the best possible advice is incorporated into the regulations.  
  • There is some flexibility built into Transport Canada’s Interim Order to allow air carriers to deal with exceptional circumstances (e.g., special needs or medical issue), but the primary consideration is public health and safety. Exceptions to the face covering requirements should be on a short-term basis wherever possible.
  • The vast majority of those traveling on flights to, from and within Canada are wearing face coverings to help prevent the spread of the COVID virus. Individuals who refuse to comply with an instruction given by a crew member with respect to wearing a face covering face fines of up to $5,000. Transport Canada will continue to investigate incidents reported to us and will take enforcement action where it is warranted.  


  • Under the Interim Order Respecting Certain Requirements for Civil Aviation Due to COVID-19, a private operator or air carrier must require all travellers to have a face covering with them prior to boarding. The private operator or air carrier must also require all its passengers to wear their face coverings at all time during the pre-board screening process, while boarding, during the flight and from the moment the doors of the aircraft are opened until passengers enter the air terminal building. Certain short-term exceptions apply, such as while a passenger is eating, drinking and taking oral medicine.  
  • The face covering requirements do not apply to:
    • an infant (defined as a child under two (2) years of age, consistent with the recommendation from the Public Health Agency of Canada);
    • a person who provides a medical certificate certifying that they are unable to wear a face mask for a medical reason;
    • a person who is unconscious; or
    • a person who is unable to remove their face mask without assistance.  
  • The flight crew can exercise some discretion when dealing with special circumstances, and the pilot has the authority to take appropriate action he or she deems necessary to protect the safety of the aircraft, crew, or passengers. Transport Canada’s guidance document to air carriers advises them to exercise discretion to allow for eating, drinking, taking oral medications and changing of the mask or face covering, for individuals with special circumstances as warranted (e.g., fussy older child, special needs, etc.) or in cases where the wearing of a mask could endanger the safety of the person.  
  • Air carriers must adhere to the measures as laid out in the Interim Order but may have additional measures that align to internal health policies put into effect.  
  • If, during a flight to, from or within Canada, a person refuses to comply with an instruction given by a crew member with respect to wearing a face mask, the private operator or air carrier must inform Transport Canada, which will investigate and determine appropriate action, which could range from a letter of compliance to an Administrative Monetary Penalty of up to $5,000.