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Flights during a pandemic: how to protect yourself from coronavirus at the airport and airplane

Experts say that it’s safer to fly now than it was at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, due to the fact that many airlines have made changes to the rules. But it is very important to take precautions for travelers themselves, writes USA Today.

Photo: Shutterstock

Travel is a process in which contact with people and surfaces that people often touch cannot be avoided. You will spend time queuing at security checks and at airport terminals, sitting next to others on the plane.

As the number of COVID-19 cases increases in some states, people wonder: is it safe to fly?

Physician Joseph Hubbaza, a specialist in lung diseases and intensive care at the Cleveland Clinic, which treats patients with coronavirus, said flying is more risky than other modes of transportation due to aircraft configuration.

“When you are in the salon, you don't know who is next to you,” he said. "You are in relative proximity to people you don't know."

You may need to sit next to other people (closer than a 6-foot recommendation on social distance), sometimes for hours.

Nevertheless, according to the expert, flights are now safer than before in the context of the pandemic due to changes made by the airlines.

“It is as safe as they can do it,” said Khabbaza.

If you still intend to take off, here are a few ways to reduce your risks:

Avoid shared baskets on security check conveyors

To avoid cross-contamination, the TSA recommends that passengers leave personal items, such as mobile phones, keys, lip balm and wipes, in carry-on bags and not in a common basket.

The TSA has introduced procedures to increase social distance and reduce direct contact between travelers and agents: for example, passengers themselves scan their boarding passes.

Wear a face mask

Bring a face mask with you and wear it at the airport and airplane. All major US airlines require passengers to be masked. Some airlines, including United, American and Delta, said they would not allow passengers on board who refused to wear masks.

“Customers who choose not to comply with this or any other safety requirement risk losing their future flight privileges with Delta,” CEO Ed Bastian said in a message to employees. "Fortunately, there have been only a few cases so far, but we have already banned some future passengers from traveling with Delta for refusing to wear masks on board."

On the subject: Airport Security Check: 7 New Rules for Air Travelers

Yes, you can take off the mask when you eat or drink. But be sure to put it on immediately. And do not shoot, barely stepping off the plane.

Forgot your mask? Many airports and airlines distribute them to travelers, in addition, masks are sold in airport stores and some vending machines. Spirit Airlines will sell you a mask for $ 3, and the proceeds will go to the needs of the Red Cross. The company's CEO says that masks are not often bought, as people mostly bring their own.

Take hand sanitizer and wipes

Bring your own hand sanitizer and use it regularly. The TSA eased the requirements for transporting liquids by making an exception for hand sanitizers, and allows travelers to take a container with this product up to 12 ounces (350 ml) instead of the usual limit of 3,4 ounces (100 ml) in hand luggage. Also take antibacterial wipes and wipe your seat, tray, table, armrest and other areas around you.

Travelers should consider which surfaces around them may potentially contain the virus and make sure they are sanitized. If you have to use the toilet during the flight, wipe the doorknob and other surfaces that you can touch inside the bathroom.

Take on board your food and drinks

Would you like to touch a bag of snacks, cups of airline drinks or go to a store or restaurant at the airport (if you find it open at all)? Bring your food from home and an empty water bottle to fill it as soon as you pass the security check.

Another reason for packing food: Several airlines have cut - or even stopped - in-flight services to limit interactions between passengers and flight attendants.

Use contactless registration options

Using your smartphone, pre-register for a flight in your airline’s mobile application and save your boarding pass right on your phone. You can also register on the airline’s website and print your boarding pass. In any case, you can avoid waiting in line to use the check-in counters at the airport.

If you have bags that need to be checked in as luggage, consider using a porter service to avoid queues (if available at your airport), but remember to tip - a few dollars per bag.

To reduce the number of common ground when you check in and go through a security system, consider taking a ziplock bag with you where you can put your ID in and keep it there until it is checked by airport or TSA staff.

View connecting flights

Paloma Beamer, an associate professor of environmental health sciences at the University of Arizona's College of Public Health, says shorter flights, rather than one long one, could limit time in close proximity to a possibly infected person in the nearest seat. You will most likely not need to use the toilet on two short flights, which will reduce the time spent in the aisle.

On the subject: Flights after quarantine: many people who do not have COVID-19 will not be allowed on the plane

Which place is better to choose?

Sit by the window. Choosing a window seat reduces the number of people sitting around you, and you are further away from those who walk or stand in the aisle.

Open the vent

Most airborne viruses and other germs are not so easily spread on flights due to the fact that the air in the aircraft is constantly circulating and filtered.

According to Beamer, most planes have filters that remove 99,9% of the particles from the air, while also introducing outside air into the cabin. The expert says that an additional stream of filtered air will push away unfiltered air.

Therefore, keep the ventilation openings above the seat open to improve ventilation.

Educational program Air travel coronavirus Special Projects COVID-19

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