How to fly safe and arrive well during COVID-19
To help you make informed decisions about the safety and well-being of your travelers in the aftermath of the COVID-19 (coronavirus) outbreak, we have prepared the following information to help travelers stay healthy while flying. Even though the WHO announced COVID-19 is no longer a global health crisis, it doesn't mean COVID-19 safe flying is out of style. It is your responsibility to ensure your travelers comply with any government travel restrictions.
When it comes to spreading infectious diseases, the aviation industry gets a bad rap. Many people still find themselves googling "how to avoid getting sick when traveling," "how to not get sick on a plane," or "how to avoid catching COVID-19 on a plane." It’s true that increased global air travel over the past decade means viruses spread more quickly, but planes themselves aren’t to blame. Anywhere that large groups gather and mix is equally susceptible – and, as it turns out, just as manageable.
Many COVID-19 travel restrictions and requirements have been relaxed or removed entirely, with wearing masks and undergoing PCR tests becoming less common, but that doesn’t mean air travel has gone back to the way it was before the pandemic. There are still some specific rules, guidelines, and risks related to COVID-19 – and understanding and following them helps keep everyone safer.
As with any flu season, there are precautions you can take to minimize your risk of becoming unwell. To reduce your odds of infection, you can turn to the familiar (albeit refined) tips from early on in the pandemic.
Practice good hand hygiene
Experts agree that one of the best ways to minimize the spread of COVID-19 and other diseases is simply washing your hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds (that’s the time it takes to sing "Happy Birthday" to yourself twice). If soap and water are not available, use a hand sanitizer that is at least 60% alcohol. Just keep in mind that constant use of hand sanitizer can irritate your skin, so keep some hand cream close by!
Feel unwell? Don’t travel
Depending on the variant, COVID-19 appears to have an incubation period of two to 14 days, as compared to the regular flu, which is just two days. The CDC recommends getting tested 1-3 days before you depart, and if your test result is positive, to follow recommendations for self-isolation. Some international airports are still conducting temperature checks for arriving, departing, and transiting passengers, so there’s the chance that you could be denied boarding for having a fever unrelated to COVID-19. So protect yourself and other travelers by not flying when you’re sick!
Cover up & clean up
While masks are no longer required on most flights, experts still recommend wearing one throughout your travel experience. For flights longer than four hours, be sure to pack extra masks in your carry-on and change them out several times. And if you choose not to wear one, be extra mindful to cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze. It also is a good idea to bring sanitizing wipes to disinfect any tray tables you may use during your travels.
Almost all modern aircraft have HEPA (High-Efficiency Particulate Air) filters that will filter 99.999% of dust particles and airborne contaminants, such as viruses and bacteria, ensuring the highest possible quality of cabin air. However, infection specialists suggest a window seat, away from passenger foot traffic, could offer you a bit more protection.
If your travel policy allows, consider upgrading to business or first-class travel. It will give you a small buffer of extra personal space and potentially less contact with other passengers. For that same reason, direct flights can also help reduce your risk of exposure by keeping you out of additional crowded settings, like another boarding process.
Have vaccinations up-to-date
Getting vaccinated – and getting boosted – is the best thing travelers can do to keep themselves safe while flying. The World Health Organization (WHO) strongly recommends COVID-19 vaccines as safe and effective at protecting travelers from serious consequences of infection. In fact, up-to-date vaccines are required for international travelers' entry into certain countries. Having all other essential vaccinations up to date will also help you stay healthy and prevent your immune system
Get the latest travel advice
Although the list of countries and airlines removing COVID-19 restrictions is steadily growing, policies still vary by location and are subject to change. So before booking your trip, be sure to review airline policies regarding COVID-19 and check for destination-specific travel advisories. If traveling internationally, check the US State Department website for the latest information and advice. For domestic travel advisories, refer to individual state, territorial, tribal, and local government websites.
FCM customers can also use the FCM Platform and FCM Mobile to not only keep track of health advisories issued by WorldAware but to locate and communicate with travelers, giving you both that extra peace of mind.
Invest in travel insurance
Most travel insurance companies now provide trip cancelation insurance and trip interruption insurance if you test positive for COVID-19. That means if your trip is canceled or interrupted due to a positive test result, you could be reimbursed for prepaid, non-refundable flights and other travel costs. However, insurance policies vary greatly, so it’s best to contact your insurance company directly or inquire via your travel manager.
Use your Travel Agent
Navigating travel in the aftermath of a pandemic is confusing. That’s why having a dedicated travel agent and a travel management company with a genuine 24/7 emergency hotline is priceless. Should COVID-19 interrupt your travel plans, your FCM travel agent can help with accommodation, flight changes, cancelations, and alternative routing. Also, download your travel company’s mobile app to stay up to date with travel alerts and changing conditions.
Staying safe and well today and tomorrow
Sure, air travel may look a little different after the COVID-19 pandemic. But with the right precautions and information, you can minimize your risk and arrive safely at your destination. From practicing good hygiene to staying up to date with travel regulations, there are plenty of things you can do to keep yourself and others healthy. With these measures in place, you can soar above the clouds and arrive at your destination safely and soundly. So, pack your bags, grab your mask, and enjoy happy, healthy travels!