In no way flying today is as we knew it. The corona virus pandemic (COVID-19) took its heavy toll on the airline industry. It decreased travel demand by 80% by June 14 compared to same period of last year according to Airlines for America.
Furthermore, the ongoing pandemic called out for entirely different set of rules when we fly today. The rules affect the way we go about checking in and passing through TSA security checkpoints and being on-board. Here is what need to know!
At the airport
If public transpiration can take you to the airport – consider it. Often, it is the cheapest way to get to airports. However, with the current pandemic situation using your own car, taking a cab, or using car sharing services like Uber ot Lyft might be a better option. Expect to pay more for Uber and Lyft, however, as they do not allow shared rides. You’ll be the only one in the car and pay a premium price.
Be prepared to put on your mask as soon as you enter an airport. Local and federal health officials in many US counties still require the public to wear masks when in public. Carry masks, wipes and hand sanitizer and you’re good to go.
To limit your interaction with airport staff and keep social distancing while at the airport check-in online anytime you can. Send a copy of the boarding pass to your email or have it saved in the airline mobile app. Most airlines along with their websites have mobile application. Is is smart to print out your boarding pass just in case your digital devices fail.
New rules now guard the TSA security check points as the administration announced in May. Expect that you will scan your paper or digital boarding pass instead of handing out to the TSA officer. Put keys, phones, and personal valuables into your carry-on to avoid setting up the alarm or having to go through a touch-point where you have to be personally searched. To protect their health TSA officers need to wear masks, so you do, too.
Airlines have closed most of their airport self check-in kiosk to limit the spread of the virus. Where airline check-in kiosks still operate, however, you will notice a change. United Airlines, for example, at selected airports recently introduced “a touchless kiosk” where travelers print bag tags and boarding passes using their smart phone. The concept is expected to roll out to even more US airports in the time to come. It aims to reduce interactions between airport staff and travelers handing in and out papers.
Of course, traveling with carry-on only will save you the trouble of checking in any additional bags.
Think about bringing your own food at the airport and on board. A noticeable change at airports around the country is the closed shops and restaurants. Some airlines have stopped serving food.
The dilemma before airlines is who should be allowed to board!? Shouldn’t passengers’ temperature measurements be taken, for example, before they are allowed to board? The US budget carrier Frontier recently announced plans to start taking passengers’ temperature as of July 1. However, many airlines do not agree that’s their job but rather it’s the duty of the government to mandate public heath screening.
When on-board of an airplane you’re in such a confined space where anyone could be potentially sick or spreading the virus; is a terrifying idea for many travelers. Airplane air filters as airlines say are highly effective at removing pathogens. In addition, airlines now put extraordinary effort of not only clean but thoroughly disinfect their cabins.
In the beginning of March United Airlines announced that it teams up with Cleveland Clinic and the household brand Clorox to develop new operational and cleaning changes. Safety, social-distancing, and disinfecting protocols will take effect. Some of the changes mandate mandatory facial covering by travelers and employees, and accommodating travelers to take alternative flights when their original flights are getting full.
Implementing social-distancing in a limited space like the airplane cabin with X amount of seats is not an easy task. Jet Blue and Southwest block the middle seat to keep passengers apart. Airlines will also have to offer more flights if demand increases but due to social-distancing flights cannot be set to fly full. Restrictions are in place to limit the options of reserving your seat in advance.
Traveling at this time stays a personal choice activity. Could the masks, the social-distancing, and the cleaning and disinfecting be a 100% safety proof? Certainly, not. The risk is still there.
It’s best if you go to the website of the airports and the airlines; they all publish updated Covid-19 information that is useful to know in advance.
We have to adopt and to accepts to live with Covid-19 for many months to come. As we resume our quasi normal life after months of shelter-in-place quarantine we need to teach ourselves how to travel safer for the safety of others and our own.