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How To Fly Safely On An Airplane in 2020

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Recently during the pandemic my family and I flew on an airplane from California to Georgia to spend time with my husband’s mother.  She has mostly been alone during this pandemic and we wanted to encourage her a bit.

When I posted about our trip on Instagram Stories, I got a lot of questions about why we traveled and how we traveled safely.  So, here’s a step by step guide of exactly of how we planned our trip and what precautions we took to fly safely during the pandemic.

How To Fly Safely On An Airplane

Learn how to fly safely on an airplane in 2020

Check quarantine requirements prior to traveling

We were not asked to quarantine when we arrived in Georgia.  However, each state has different rules and guidelines.  So, please check with the local authorities where you are traveling to prior to going.

Limit the number of touch points you encounter

When you travel, you want to limit the number of touch points as possible.  That includes what you touch in the airport, where you put your baggage, how you go through TSA and so on.

Fly in and out of a smaller airport

If possible, choose a smaller airport to fly in and out of.  The smaller the airport, the less people you will be exposed to, which means less germs.  On our trip we flew out of Ontario International Airport, connected through Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport and landed in Augusta Regional Airport.  

There was definitely a difference between all three airports.  Ontario was clean and quiet.  We got through TSA quick and easy.  Dallas/Fort Worth was busier, but still very clean and tidy.  I saw the custodial team cleaning all the chairs, arm rests, tables, etc. continually during our 3-hour lay over.  When we landed into Augusta, Georgia, the airport was like a ghost town besides the two security guards that I saw on duty.

When we fly home, we are flying into John Wayne Airport in Orange County, California, which is also a smaller airport.

Have your boarding pass ready on your cell phone

All airlines these days allow you to scan your boarding pass from your cell phone.  You can also do this when you go through TSA.  It’s another touch point that you can avoid.

Airlines are implementing extra safety precautions at check-in

Each airline is implementing extra safety precautions at the airports.  For example, United says they will use sneeze guards at check-in counters, hand out wipes and install touchless kiosks in select locations for baggage check-in.

a family flying on an airplane during a pandemic

Some shops and restaurants are open at the airports

When we flew out of Ontario International Airport none of the stores or restaurants were open, except for one conveyance store.  Half of the restaurants and no shops were open at the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport.  But if you need it, conveyance stores inside the airport have masks, wipes and hand sanitizer for sale.

TSA is quick and easy

When we went through TSA in Ontario there was only one person behind us.   We got in and out in under 10 minutes.  It was amazing!  I expect it to change though as summer travel picks up.  Also have your boarding pass ready on your phone at security to avoid another touch point.

Wipe down where you sit in the airport

I brought a pack of Lysol Disinfecting Wipes with me and wiped down every seat we sat in at the airport.  Yes, I looked like the crazy lady, but it was worth it to me.

Try to keep your kids from touching unnecessary surfaces

I did not allow my kids to touch things like the escalator handles or elevator buttons in the airport.  But if it did happen, we simply washed our hands or used hand sanitizer.

Airlines are disinfecting airplanes more often

All airlines have upgraded their cleaning processes of key touchpoints throughout the day with disinfectant, while some aircrafts undergo a further deep cleaning procedure on a regularly scheduled basis.  

For example, United has a partnership with Clorox Co. for enhanced cleaning and another with medical experts from the Cleveland Clinic, as it works to keep passengers safe during the coronavirus pandemic.  

Boarding takes less time

To reduce contact between passengers airlines have initiated a new back-to-front boarding process.  First class still gets to board at any point.  Since the boarding process was really quick and easy our plane left the gate right on time. 

Airlines are not always keeping the middle seat open

Our flight on American Airlines was completely full and the middle seat was not blocked off.   Even though there are less flights going out right now, the airlines are filling up their planes to the maximum capacity to save money.  

But there are few exceptions.  Jet Blue announced they will block middle seats on Airbus planes in rows where people aren’t traveling together through July 4 and will block aisle seats on smaller Embraer 190 planes.  Alaska says they have implemented seat restrictions to facilitate social distancing.  Delta and United gives passengers the option to take alternative flights when flights are over 70% full.

how to fly safely during a pandemic

Wear a mask on the plane

It’s very challenging to maintain six feet of distance between everyone onboard.  So, please wear a mask when flying.  This is the new flying etiquette.  Wearing a face covering isn’t about protecting yourself—it’s about protecting those around you.  

Wipe down your seat on the airplane

Even though airlines are taking extra precautions to keep their customers safe, I highly recommend that you clean your seat onboard.  This includes wiping down the seat, armrests, table, screen, seat belts, headrest, light and call buttons, and even the wall and window next to you if you have a window seat.  

The window seat can provide an extra layer of protection, because you’re away from the majority of people boarding and unboarding the airplane.

Turn on the air vent above you

Another safety tip is to turn on the air vents above you in the plane.  This will create a steady air flow around you that circulates while you fly.  Some airlines like Alaska, Southwest Airlines, and Hawaiian Airlines are also using High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters to clean the air.

Use your own hand held device 

We used our own hand held devices to watch inflight entertainment.  It’s another touchpoint you can avoid if possible.

Airlines are not offering food or drink service on board

Most airlines are serving a small snack bag that comes with a sanitizing wipe that you can pick up as you board the plane.  Our bag had a bottle of water and pretzels.  If you are on a longer flight, I recommend that you bring your own snacks to eat onboard.  I simply brought some snacks with me that I bought the day before.

No extra comforts

Airlines are not handing out pillows or towels at this time and discontinued hot towel treatment in first class.

Get off the airplane last

To help keep a safer distance from others, my family waited to get off the airplane until everyone else got off first.  Less people equals less exposure.

Most people are kind and helpful.

Please be nice to the airline staff.  They are doing their best to help keep people safe and secure during this time.

CDC Travel Guidelines

Finally, as a friendly reminder, individuals are encouraged to listen to medical experts and heed their guidance.  Following these basic protective measures from the CDC is also encouraged:

  • Stay home if you are sick.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • If soap and water are unavailable, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol content.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, hands and mouth.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or tissue when coughing or sneezing.

Have you traveled anywhere during the pandemic?  Do you have any questions for me?  If so, drop them in the comment section below and I will be happy to answer them.

Safe travels!