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Flying During COVID-19

Packing your bags and hopping on an airplane are less than ideal during today’s times. In a pre-Covid era, travelers never thought twice about air travel. With vaccinations ramping up and glimpses of a normal, post-Covid reality in sight, the thought of flying is becoming more and more talked about. So what’s the flying experience really like? I recently returned to NYC from SoCal after a 3-week stay, and I’m here to share my personal experience. 

Getting Prepared

When planning a trip by plane, it’s important to understand the journey is from door-to-door, not airport-to-airport. How are you getting to the airport? Do you need a Lyft or Uber? If that’s the case, make sure you and the driver keep a mask on and roll windows down if possible. Upon arriving to the airport, make sure to have the key disinfecting essentials:

  1. Hand Sanitizer: For travelling, you will need a 3-ounce bottle with greater than 60% ethanol or 70% isopropyl alcohol. 
  2. Disinfecting Wipes: Although most airlines have a sanitization crew after each flight deboards, you’ll still want to wipe down your seat, tray table, window area, seat belt, and any other frequently touched surface.
  3. Face Mask: Make sure your mask has two or more layers of washable, breathable fabric. You also must keep your mask on throughout the duration of the flight. Here is the ultimate face mask guide. 
  4. Face Shield (Optional): If you are high risk, you should consider a face shield to protect against large droplets directly getting into your eyes. If you opt for a face shield, you’ll still need to wear a mask. Be cautious though – face shields are more prone to a face full of fog!

Airport Arrival

Once you’ve got the sanitation essentials and arrive at the airport, it’ll be time to go through TSA security and head to your gate. This process stays relatively the same – remove your shoes and jackets, place your belongings on the belt, and head through the scanner. If possible, utilize PreCheck or Clear to avoid the longer security lines. 

The airports themselves are the most intimidating factor of the flying experience. Yes, everyone is supposed to keep their mask on inside, however, some people have to get a snack in before flights. I recommend eating prior to your flight and bringing your own snacks if necessary. It’s also best to find an empty spot in the airport, away from travelers, while you wait to board the plane. 

The Boarding Process

The process of boarding the plane might be a bit different than you’re used to. Instead of boarding by groups, most airlines will now board from the back of the plane to the front. This minimizes the amount of times people walk by you, ultimately creating less exposure. I flew JetBlue, and they fortunately block out middle seats. This is nice, because not only do you have more space in your row, but you also don’t have to worry about sitting inches away from a stranger. Let’s be real – airplane seats are already too close to begin with. 

Ready For Take-off!

Now that you’re settled in your seat, it’s time to enjoy the flight like usual. Not much is different about the flight itself. Watch a movie, read a book, or play that annoyingly addictive game on your phone. Pull out your earbuds and check out that new podcast episode you’ve struggled to find time for, or that new rock album you’ve been wanting to hear. Try to fill your flight time with mindless activities rather than focus too much on the pandemic. It’s comforting to know that airplanes have HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filters that provide efficient circulation on aircrafts. This means “the air you breathe in flight is much cleaner than the air in restaurants, bars, stores, or your best friend’s living room” (National Geographic). 

The Deboarding Process

Once you land and the flight is officially over, you will go through the basic deboarding process from front-to-back. Be patient, wait in your seat until it’s your turn to leave – it’s hard not to stand immediately, I know – and make your way down the aisle to exit the cabin. Plan to have your ride from the airport to your destination scheduled in advance, whether it’s through a car service or a family member/friend. 

And that’s it! You’ve successfully made it through the flying experience. Remember though, it is best to stay home or travel by car as much as possible. If you must fly, then follow the tips above and make sure to check-in with CDC guidelines for the state you are visiting. Each city/state has varying guidelines, so you must be informed on quarantine rules prior to your trip.

Safe travels!