Well, before booking a flight, do hear this out!
Though economies have reopened, shops and restaurants are back, and airlines have resumed their local and international flights; the only prevalent issues are social distancing and face mask.
Since airlines have started their flights, people around the globe wonder whether to fly right now, as summer is and vacation season has also begun, and sadly, the threat of COVID-19 is still very real.
As things stand now, both local and international air travel is discouraged by the government, urging people to avoid all non-essential travel.
But domestic flights are working smoothly, people are traveling, but how to remain safe on the flight?
This is what we are here for…
When it comes to domestic air travel, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) ‘s clear: “Because travel increases the chances of getting infected and spreading COVID-19, staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others around.”
Despite warnings, many people have to or seem to be ready to board a plane for leisure or work. In a survey of 3,500 people, 36% of international travelers who took a flight in 2019 said they won’t fly until a COVID-19 vaccine is available, and 30% of domestic flyers said they would find other ways to travel domestically until the vaccine is widely available.
The question remains: is air travel safe during COVID-19?
A one-word answer is NO; right now, it’s risky, perfectly explained by a disease specialist Bruce Polsky, MD, NYU Winthrop Hospital, “There’s no getting around the crowds between walking through airports, TSA lines, and boarding lines. And a vacant middle seat doesn’t provide six feet of social distancing. Unless you really have to go, why would you?”
Yes, if it’s a matter of life and death – though flying in an airplane is also the same – taking a flight is FINE.
But we also appreciate all the protective measures airlines and airports are taking to lessen the risks getting infected, which probably makes air travel less risky and prone to be the host of the virus but not negligible.
Dr. Bailey says, “the risk is likely reduced by all the risk mitigation measures that have been—and will be—put in place by airlines and airports as well as travelers’ use of masks, social distancing, and deciding to stay home if symptomatic.”
If I take a flight, what precautions should I take?
If an emergency arises and you have no choice other than boarding on a plane, there are steps to be taken to lower the risk coronavirus infection; don’t forget what Paloma Beamer, Ph.D., University of Arizona, says, “The primary concern is to minimize your exposure to potentially infectious people, this means minimizing the number and duration of people in a six-foot bubble around you.”
Simply, stay in uncrowded areas and wait on line many feet away from others.
The secondary concern is touching objects – both at the airport and in the airplane – that may have been touched by an infectious person a while before. Dr. Beamer, says, “To minimize this route of exposure, wash your hands and use hand sanitizer frequently, especially after touching frequently contacted objects like ticket kiosk screens.”
She also stressed wearing a face mask throughout the Airport journey, as infectious particles could be in the air; plus, wearing a mask also acts as a public courtesy, knowing other passengers that you’re being as cautious as possible.
How to remain safe trough security and boarding procedures?
Generally, airport security involves long lines at checkpoints and several back-and-forths of passengers’ belongings.
Updated security procedures have already placed like the appropriate spacing on checkpoints both on floors and staggered lanes – to facilitate social distancing. And passengers are no more required to give their boarding pass to the security agent; instead, they are supposed to place it on the reader themselves for the agent to inspect.
All TSA officers are supposed to wear face masks and gloves, and passengers are supposed to keep their personal items in their luggage rather than in the bins; only edibles are supposed to keep in the given containers. Once done with security checks, disinfect all the personal items, including ID cards and phones.
Throughout the boarding process, social distancing is quite tricky.
For In-flight Safety Measures
- Every airline has its own strategy to keep passengers and staff safe during the pandemic.
- Most airlines have also minimized the number of passengers per flight and space them in the plane as much as possible.
- Many airlines check the temperatures of their staff and even passengers as well.
- Practice better hygiene habits both on and off the plane like wearing your mask and disinfecting personal items and the area, including food tray and seat handles. Good airlines like United Airlines are also providing sanitizing wipes disposable face coverings to passengers upon boarding. In contrast, Delta provides a care kit that includes hand sanitizer gel pouches and a disposable face mask.
- Some airlines have also revealed their plane-cleaning measures like how they conduct electrostatic spraying – they disinfectant every surface a passenger gets in contact with.
- Airlines like Qatar Airways required all the passengers from Pakistan to get tested for Covid-19 within 72 hours prior to their flight departure and should be negative.
The best thing is that airplanes already have high-efficiency particulate (HEPA) filters that easily remove more than 99.99% of particles, including viruses.
Any other precautions?
Dr. Bailey recommends that before you fly, find out how prevalent COVID-19 is in the city you are traveling to.
Also, remember that older people and those who are immunocompromised are at a higher risk of the coronavirus, so make sure they are should not fly unless it’s an emergency.