In Turbulent Times How Safe is Air Travel & What Can You Expect?
We can’t wait to get back to traveling, but the reality is likely most vacations, even when cruising returns, will require us to get on an airplane. But how safe is flying, really? Well, we are here to help answer that question for you. We have compiled some of the latest research in air safety travel, as well as details about the health and safety policies to help you decide whether you’re ready to take off on your next adventure.
How Safe Is Air Travel?
Research has shown that the risk of disease transmission during air travel is significantly lower than during normal daily life. Airports have an average of six to 10 air changes an hour, which is better than the typical five air exchanges per hour of the average building, like your local grocery store. Once you’re on the airplane, the entire volume of the air is exchanged 20 to 30 times per hour and they have filters that can capture particles 10 times smaller than the COVID-19 virus. Apparently, forward-facing seat configurations found on airplanes can actually create a barrier or transmission similar to clear plastic barriers seen in many businesses today too. Overall, modeling shows that the airflow pattern, exchange rate, HEPA filtration, and forward-facing seats create conditions equivalent to seven to 15 feet of social distancing even for adjacent seats.
So overall, while air travel is a risk, it doesn’t appear to be more dangerous than frequenting locations in your own community, as long as you’re following proper protocol. Don’t just take our word for it though, all these facts came from research conducted by Boeing, University of Arizona, NASA, and the National Center for Biotechnology Information.
What Should I Consider Before Flying?
The first step is to work with your Travel Advisor to make sure you’re prepared and understand all the requirements for traveling in this new environment. If you're traveling internationally, many countries are requiring negative PCR tests, travel insurance, ongoing testing during your visit, registration via apps, adherence to contact tracing protocol, visa applications or more. Recently the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced they are also requiring a negative PCR test from airline passengers who are returning to the U.S. as well. Thankfully, most hotels and resorts are providing these free or for a nominal fee.
Before you depart for the airport, we recommend checking in online or via the airline’s app. It’s also a good time to make sure all your contact information is up-to-date and of course, make sure that your flight is on time. While you want to minimize time spent in the terminal, you also want to leave extra time for the new check-in and security processes. You can also increase your ability to move easily through the airport by bringing minimal hand baggage. However, don’t forget your masks, snacks, and hand sanitizer — which can now be up to 12 ounces instead of the three ounces required for every other liquid.
What Can I Expect At The Airport?
The new protocols and procedures in place at airports are similar to many of the changes you are already experiencing in your daily lives. Besides face coverings for anyone over the age of two, there is an increased presence of hand sanitizing stations, Plexiglas shields, social distancing protocols and increased cleaning measures. Self-service options are encouraged (or even mandated depending on the airports/airline) from the moment you check in to self-scanning printed or mobile boarding passes to board. Many of the foodservice options at airports are either limited or closed, however, so make sure to plan ahead if you want to eat during your travels.
What Can I Expect On My Flight?
Before every trip, aircrafts go through an enhanced cleaning and disinfection process where they pay special attention to tray tables, seatbelts, armrest, window shades, seat back screens, doors and overhead bin handles. Once you board, flight attendants will ask you to stay in your seat as much as possible. Some airlines are even requiring you stay in your seat an hour before takeoff and landing. Don’t expect to have the same level of food and drink service in the main cabin either, so bring any snacks or soft drinks you may want during your flight. While meals on longer flights are still available, you can rest easy knowing the catering kitchens have also implemented additional cleaning and sanitation procedures.
No Mask? No Travel.
The one protocol that is worth paying attention to is the mask requirement. As of February 2, 2021, a new order by the CDC stipulates that face masks must be worn by all travelers into, within, or out of the United States on airplanes (as well as ships, ferries, trains, subways, buses, taxis, and ride-shares). This new requirement applies to travelers in U.S. transportation hubs including airports. Masks must be worn during air travel except in the following situations: while eating, drinking, or taking medication for brief periods, while communication with an individual who is hearing impaired when the ability to see the mouth is required for communication, on an aircraft, when the use of oxygen masks is required, and when asked to remove a mask to verify one’s identity, such as during a TSA screening or when asked to do so by a ticket or gate agent. Oh, and don’t forget to bring extra masks, but not if they have valves, mesh or holes because those are not allowed.
We hope that this information helps you make an educated decision about your next travel experience, but our best recommendation is to check in with your Travel Advisor prior to travel so that you can ensure you have the latest updates.
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