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Flying in the Time of COVID
Flying in the Time of COVID
June 30, 2020
Like for many wanderlusters, after being grounded for three months, cabin fever set in for me pretty bad. That cabin fever prompted me to do what some would call an adventurous and maybe even unthinkable act during this season. I booked a flight.
Yes, after careful consideration and research, I made plans to travel domestically in the midst of a pandemic. Here’s what I learned though and why despite gloomy media reports, I felt safe.
Airports and planes are cleaner than ever. Across the board airlines and airports have implemented deep cleaning procedures and it was visibly evident. I also learned that planes recycle cabin air using High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters, which catch 99 percent of airborne microbes, according to the International Air Transportation Association. Additionally, it’s always smart to bring your own antibacterial wipes to wipe down all the areas of the plane you’ll be touching while traveling. And just FYI, hand sanitizer dispensers can virtually be found everywhere.
If you’re familiar with Southwest, you know there’s three boarding groups – A, B and C. On my departure flight, there was only an A group and they only allowed 10 people to stand in a boarding group at a time. (Photo by Summer Hull / The Points Guy)
The majority of flights are still less than half full. While you may have seen reports of flights being near or at capacity, that is more of an exception than a rule right now. For airlines like Southwest and Delta, they are currently not booking any more than 60 – 75% capacity, or they’ve blocked booking for middle seats. Gratefully, on my flight that meant I could have a whole row to myself. If you are concerned about sitting next to someone, consider the airline’s policies during this season and how long they will last. For example, both United and Southwest will keep middle seats open until September 30, while American plans to resume selling flights to capacity as of July 1.
Everyone was wearing a mask. In both the airports and on the airplane, everyone played by the rules and wore a mask to protect themselves and others. It is a requirement across the board and many airlines and now airports have been strictly enforcing those rules.
Here are some other tips and tidbits I noticed that you might want to keep in mind if you decide to be adventurous like me.
Destinations and flight times matter. There are some major airport hubs like Charlotte Douglass International Airport that are seeing an increase in the volume of travelers. Therefore, if you’re nervous about the thought of being in an airport full of people, you may want to consider that when selecting your destination or departure airport. Additionally, early morning or late evening flights will typically be your best bet to avoid crowds.
TSA Pre and Clear still rock. The ease of Clear allows you to have a touchless experience and very little contact with anyone aside from the Clear agent. TSA Pre helps you to avoid the hassle of having to use bins for electronic equipment or shoes and there’s no pat down situation, which was awkward pre-COVID.
Eat before and/or after your flight. Many airlines have cut back on food and beverage service in flight, depending on the destination. You can still bring food on the plane but if you’re a germaphobe, it might not be the best experience for you. Additionally, it can be pretty annoying to have to remove your mask to have a bite, so my recommendation would be to avoid the dining in-flight altogether.
Keep your immune system strong. I’m a true believer that one of the best forms of protection you can have while traveling during any season is a healthy immune system. In addition to my multi-vitamins, my travel essentials kit included Vitamin C, Zinc and a tea tree and Eucalyptus concoction my brother gave me as a travel gift. I encourage you to research some other natural supplements that can help give your immune system a boost.
Put on the full armor of God. You may chuckle at this one or even dismiss it, but for me, God’s protection was paramount. Prayer throughout my trip kept my mind at peace, my body protected and my heart open to all the joy that I would experience once my feet hit the ground.
As more businesses start to open and countries welcome back visitors in the coming months, some of these guidelines and practices may dwindle or disappear altogether. One thing’s for sure, this has certainly changed the way we will travel forever. But for now, it might be one of the safest and cheapest times to fly that we’ve seen.
Stay tuned for my next blog, which will offer some ideas on what you can do closer to home that will help you take the edge off that cabin fever.