Advice for air travel during the COVID-19 pandemic
Because of the social and economic disruptions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a very significant reduction in the demand for air travel. For those who either want to fly or have to fly, perhaps the biggest concern is how to keep from getting infected with coronavirus during their trip.
As will all other safety issues around flying, the key is to understand the risks and to take steps to either eliminate the risk, reduce the likelihood of that risk happening, or minimizing the negative effects should that risk happen. When it comes to COVID-19 and air travel, the only reasonable option is to reduce the likelihood of getting infected.
Reduce the number of flights or flight segments
Quite simply, if you don’t have to travel, you have zero risk of getting infected during your flight, in the airport, or on the way to or from the airport. This is especially true if you have a current medical condition that may make you more susceptible to serious infection consequences. You can also consider the following options
- Consider taking fewer trips or reducing the opportunities to be on an airplane,
- Choose a nonstop flight or a flight that allows you to stay on the same aircraft for the entire journey.
- Consider taking a different airline for the outbound flight or the inbound flight if it allows you to complete the trip in fewer flight segments..
Maintain some flexibility in your schedule
- Choose an airline that has minimal or no penalties for rescheduling or canceling your flight.
- Avoid taking the last flight of the day for your destination.
- Choose an airline that has multiple flights a day to your destination.
- Whether you are on a domestic or international trip, check to see if there are legal restrictions that may apply to you once you arrive.
Avoid other people
While you have to be in close contact with security personnel, flight attendants, and gate agents, there are many ways to reduce your exposure to other people during your trip, including:
- Avoid checked baggage, which avoids not only the people handling your baggage before the flight but also the crowd of people waiting to pick up baggage after the flight.
- Check in online and either print or download your boarding pass at home.
- Avoiding public transportation when going to and from the airport, with your own private vehicle perhaps being the least risky choice.
- Keep your distance from others in the airport terminal.
- Limiting your exposure to bars, restaurants, stores, and other businesses in the terminal.
Use personal protective equipment
- Wear a mask or other covering over your mouth and nose at all times in the airport, in an aircraft, or in any kind of public or shared transport that you may take to and from the airport.
- Consider using disposable gloves.
- Carry extra face coverings, gloves, and other protective equipment.
- Consider carrying disposable wipes and hand sanitizer. Note that TSA currently allows each passenger to carry one liquid hand sanitizer container, up to 12 ounces (354 ml).
Limit your exposure during the flight
- Consider upgrading your ticket to travel in a roomier part of the aircraft like first class, business class, or premium coach.
- Consider choosing an airline that has a policy of leaving some passenger seats open.
- Avoid moving around the cabin.
- If possible, avoid going to the lavatory during the flight.
Learn more about COVID-19 risks
When making your travel plans, be sure to consult reliable sources of information about the coronavirus pandemic and about the laws and regulations that may affect your travels. The resources below from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and from other organizations are a good place to start.