Want to fly and stay safe? Here’s what you need to know
Wednesday, September 30, 2020
Since the COVID-19 pandemic spread around the world, people have figured out ways to conduct business and family reunions without getting on an airplane. But sometimes you have to go. So how do you stay safe on a plane?
First, make sure you really want to go. Some states and countries require people who travel out of state to quarantine for two weeks after arriving or coming home. And some countries aren’t allowing Americans in at all. Check your state’s requirements and those of the destination you are headed. If you don’t have two weeks to be secluded, you probably should stay home.
The Centers for Disease Control says there isn’t much likelihood of getting COVID-19 on a plane because of the way air is filtered and circulates, but airplane seating makes social distancing difficult, so flying could increase the chance of catching the virus.
Still need to go? If you are clear for takeoff, make sure you pack correctly.
Get a mask, in fact, get more than one. You don’t want your mask to fall out of your bag or get left in an airline bathroom, because you are going to have a hard time getting on a plane without one. Your airline might be willing to give you one, or they might not. Put one mask in your carry-on, another in your bag and have one in your pocket or purse to put on when you get to the airport.
When you go through screening, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officer is probably going to ask you to adjust your mask so they can see your face. But instead of handing them your boarding pass or cellphone, place it on the scanner yourself to eliminate extra contact. Put your keys, wallet and phone in your carry-on instead of dropping them into the bin when you go through screening, too. If they make you take your cellphone out, ask if you can hold it.
Washing your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds is important in limiting the spread of COVID-19, according to the CDC. Wash your hands before and after going through TSA screening, and after touching kiosks, handrails, elevators or escalators (but try to avoid touching these if you can).
If you cannot wash your hands with soap and water, use hand sanitizer that is at least 60 percent alcohol. The TSA now allows people to carry on a 12-ounce bottle of hand sanitizer, unlike the limit of 3.4 ounces for all other liquids and gels. They are probably going to screen it separately, though, so be sure you have some extra time.
Many airports have spots 6 feet apart marked on the floor at airline and rental car counters and for the lines at the TSA checkpoints. Look for the spots on the floor, and keep your distance in restrooms, seating and food counters, too.
When you get on the plane, it’s probably going to get more difficult to stay 6 feet apart, especially once you take your seat. Keep your mask on when you are boarding and while in your seat, except for eating. Some airlines have done away with food service, so that might not be an issue. Passengers can bring on their own food (put in a plastic bag during screening) and buy drinks once they are through the TSA checkpoint.
You also need to do all the things during travel that you do at home – stay away from people who are sick, don’t touch your nose and mouth and cover your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze, preferably not with your hands, but with your elbow or a tissue.
And if you don’t feel good, stay home!
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