How to fly safely during COVID
Travel may never be the same, but that only means that you’ll need to be more prepared for flights in the COVID era.
Is it safe to travel?
In a word, no. Non-essential travel during a global pandemic is not encouraged by health and safety professionals. The safest place for you to be is probably inside your own home. The moment you leave your house, you are at risk of exposure to COVID-19. However, safety is also found in your everyday actions. If you must travel, or as lockdowns lift and travel restrictions loosen, if you decide to travel, there are precautionary measures you can take to lessen your risk of infection.
No matter how many precautions you take, please do not travel if you or someone you have been in contact with have shown symptoms of COVID-19.
Pre-travel planning and preparation
Due to the risk of exposure that comes with flying, it is crucial to get travel insurance. Check policies carefully to see what they offer in terms of COVID-19 coverage. Many policies do not cover pandemic costs, so read the whole statement thoroughly before purchasing.
Once you have your insurance figured out, you will need to plan out your trip. Gone are the days of spontaneous bookings and little research! Look into what regulations and health measures are in place at every step of your intended journey. From the local government to your accommodation providers, you need to search for what measures are being implemented to reduce virus transmission. After understanding any steps being taken, make your travel bookings. Keep your confirmations in one place so that you have your intended addresses on hand for contact tracing. It is smart to make your bookings refundable if that option is available. Flexible bookings allow you an added layer of financial protection.
Many countries have a 14-day quarantine policy for all arrivals. These countries may require you to have additional travel documentation with a local telephone number and your accommodation information to ensure you follow the sheltering protocol. For instance, the U.K. now requires arriving passengers to fill out a form before boarding their flight with addressed, local contact information, and a declaration that they will follow the laid out quarantine mandate or face a hefty fine (1,000 GBP).
Other countries require a negative COVID-19 test. You may be required to get a test before you fly and provide proof of a negative result before boarding and upon arrival.
Items to bring with you
Being prepared at the airport will make any travel experience smoother, but it’s now more important than ever to double-check that you have everything you need, including items that will help keep you safe and sanitary.
First and foremost, bring a reusable mask. Masks are required at most major airports and should be worn from the moment you enter the airport through the duration of the flight. Airlines are requiring face masks be worn the full flight unless you are eating. We recommend flying with a face mask that has adjustable ear elastic. This helps eliminate the elastic pulling on your ears on long haul flights and will make your trip more comfortable overall.
Hand sanitizer and cleaning wipes will help you keep your hands and high-contact surfaces germ-free. As soon as you board the plane, wipe down the entertainment screen, armrests, and tray tables. Do this multiple times throughout your flight to help reduce your exposure to the virus. Sanitize your hands regularly and in between refreshment services. The Center for Disease Control recommends sanitizers with at least 70% alcohol content.
Most airlines, in an attempt to eliminate extra contaminated surfaces, no longer offer in-flight pillows or blankets. Bring your own travel pillow so that you are safe and comfortable on long haul flights!
Meals and refreshments are yet another service that has been eliminated or streamlined for maximum traveler protection. To guarantee you don’t go hungry or that you have a meal option available to you that meets your dietary requirements, we suggest bringing snacks aboard the aircraft too.
Navigating new protocol with kindness
Physical distancing and wearing face masks are required practices at most major airports. Avoid sitting down in congested airport lounges if at all possible. If you are on a long layover, find a seat somewhere out of high traffic areas and wipe down surfaces with sanitizer wipes.
It’s important to note that a majority of airport staff are doing their jobs under these new world circumstances without additional hazard pay. As procedures alter, they are performing their duties while putting their health at risk. Keep this in mind whenever you take off.
Even where masks are not required, think of wearing one as a small act of kindness that shows how much you care about the health and safety of your fellow travellers.
Remember that at the end of the day, we are all navigating this new territory of a global pandemic together. Be patient and be kind on all your journeys. Travel safe!
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Tara Tadlock is a travel writer + blogger documenting her slow, adventure travels across 42 countries (and counting) on SillyLittleKiwi.com. Growing up in a military family, she’s always lived life with a boarding pass in one hand and a camera in the other. Tara loves finding the best coffee and vegetarian food anywhere she goes, learning about culture and customs straight from locals, and cuddling any dog within reach.