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August 8, 2020

How to Safely Travel on a Plane During COVID

Wearing a face mask for plane travel and keeping your distance from others will be essential

Since the start of the pandemic, flying on airplanes has become much riskier. Because traveling on an airplane puts you at an increased risk of getting and spreading COVID, people are advised to stay home. But if circumstances force you to hop on a plane, there are a number of precautions you can take to protect yourself and others. Make sure you review them before heading to the airport for your upcoming flight. 

Man sit in airport

Consider Alternative Travel Options

See if there are alternative travel options you can turn to

Driving might be a safer option than flying. 

If possible, consider driving or taking a train to your destination instead of flying. Road trips are your safest travel option. When driving alone or with few passengers, you can avoid sharing space with people outside of your household. Driving also lets you decide when and where you want to take breaks. Trains are also a decent option as they tend to offer more space than airplane cabins. No matter which travel option you choose, you need to follow social distancing guidelines and wear face coverings around others. 

Try to Self-Isolate Yourself from Others After Arriving to Your Destination

Protecting yourself from others is critical for slowing the spread of the virus

Bed room
Engaging in self-isolation is crucial following a trip.

Many countries are requiring people to self-isolate for 14 days upon their arrival. Because there is a chance that you were exposed to COVID-19 during your flight, it is critical that you follow this rule whether you are traveling domestically or internationally. You, and anyone else who is accompanying you, pose a risk to the community you travel to. Even if you aren’t experiencing any symptoms, you could still be contagious. 

If possible, you should test yourself for COVID-19 before traveling to your destination. You should also cancel or postpone your trip if you are experiencing any symptoms of COVID-19, including:

  • Coughing
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Runny or congested nose
  • Headache
  • Loss of taste or smell
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea

If you are sick, you need to stay home and take care of yourself. You should also stay in touch with your doctor while you recover. Even after you recover, you might need to wait a while before hopping on a plane, or any other mode of public transportation. 

Pack the Essentials

Don’t forget to bring a face mask for plane travel

Most airports require you to wear a mask. 

In addition to your regular comforts such as your compression socks or neck pillow, you should remember to pack up on the essentials. 

In order to stay safe, you should bring these items with you on your travels:

  • Several dual-layer face masks
  • Disinfecting wipes
  • Some bottles of hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol

Extra items that are helpful, but not essential, include:

  • Disposable gloves
  • Miniature first aid kit
  • Hydroflask
  • Tissues
  • Hand cleaning wipes

Practice Social Distancing Guidelines Whenever Possible

Avoid aisle and middle seats on the airplane

At one point during the pandemic, airports were practically ghost towns. However, travel has since picked up. As a result, it can be difficult to practice social distancing at these increasingly crowded venues and planes. That’s why it’s important to minimize contact with others by scanning your own boarding pass, bringing your own food, checking in online, or doing anything else that doesn’t require you to exchange an item with someone. Remaining aware of your distance from others when you stand in line will also be crucial. Try to choose airlines that are still limiting their seat selection so you don’t have to worry about sitting next to anyone on your flight. 


Your most pressing questions on airplane travel during the pandemic are answered

Flying during the pandemic is going to look a little different. 

It is understandable if you feel a little apprehensive toward heading to the airport. But staying educated and informed on current safety practices and procedures can help ease your anxiety.  GetGo answers your questions on everything from why you should wear a face mask for plane travel to what you can expect at the airport when you arrive. 

Is it safe to take a Lyft or Uber to the airport?

You can take a Lyft or Uber to the airport, but you must practice caution when doing so. It is safer to have someone who you have been self-isolating with drop you off at the airport instead. You could also park your car at a nearby garage. However, you would still have to take a shuttle or ride share service to your terminal. A lot of airports have also closed their long-term parking garages anyway.

If you end up taking a Lyft or Uber, you should wipe down the seat and door handle before exiting the car. You will also need to wear a mask during the car ride. Because neither company is offering carpooling capabilities, you should expect to pay a little more for their services these days. In order to keep cars and people moving, airports have also adjusted their drop-off, pick-up, and parking procedures. Make sure you review them before heading to the airport. 

How can I best prepare for the airport?

Before heading to the airport, you need to pack up on the essentials. At the very least, you should load up on wipes and hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol. It might be helpful to bring an extra mask or two along with the one you wear to the airport. You can also wear gloves if you wish. However, the CDC states that gloves aren’t necessary outside of cleaning the house or taking care of someone who is sick.  

How can I minimize contact with others?

Most airlines offer apps where you can electronically check in for your flight, print bag tags using a touchless kiosk, and safely board without making contact with airline employees. If you need to exchange any documents or use a kiosk, you should apply hand sanitizer afterward. Maintaining a 6-foot distance from others and wearing a mask will also keep you safer. 

How have airports changed since the start of the pandemic?

Airports are starting to look a lot cleaner nowadays. Some airports have implemented advanced cleaning technology like the Continuous Air and Surface Pathogen Reduction (CASPR), which regularly sanitizes the air as well as different surfaces. They are also offering more hand sanitizing stations throughout the airport and more frequent cleaning schedules. Most have started requiring passengers to wear masks. 

Most airport stores and restaurants will be closed. Since some airlines have stopped serving food on the plane, you should consider bringing your own. If you end up purchasing anything at the airport, you should try to use a tap-to-pay card or Apple Pay. Avoid using cash if possible. 

The boarding process might also look a little different. Most airlines are boarding people in smaller groups to allow for proper social distancing. A couple of airlines start boarding the people seated in the back of the plane first. In order to minimize contact between people, airlines are encouraging people to scan their own boarding passes. 

Should I wipe down my seat?

While it wouldn’t necessarily be a bad idea to wipe down your seat, it might not be necessary. Most airlines have stepped up their game when it comes to cleaning and sanitizing their planes. Many airlines deep clean their planes between every flight and are following a cleaning protocol for protecting passengers from possible infection. If you touch your tray or armrest, make sure you apply hand sanitizer or clean your hands with towels. 

Do I have to wear my mask during the whole flight?

Most airlines will require you to keep your mask on for the duration of the flight. While commercial planes do recycle their cabin air using High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA), the air in the cabin is pretty clean. However, you can take your mask off for eating or drinking. Some airlines are still offering food while others still let you take food on-board the plane. That being said, many airlines encourage their guests to eat before stepping onto an airplane. 

Will someone be sitting next to me on the airplane?

Some airlines are selling their middle seats. But they are not the norm. Most airlines are trying to keep some seats open in order to allow people to properly social distance themselves from each other. If you are worried about sitting next to someone, you can check your airline’s specific policy on whether or not they will be blocking middle seats. 

Before ordering tickets for a flight, you should check your local, state, and international travel restrictions. Some areas might require you to self-quarantine for two weeks. Others might require you to get tested for COVID-19 before entering the country. No matter where you go, it is imperative that you follow these safety measures to protect yourself as well as those around you. 

Traveling on an airplane before the pandemic was rough enough. But with the threat of COVID-19 still looming over us, it is more important than ever to maintain hygienic habits and practice social distancing at the airport. 


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