If you are thinking about flying somewhere, soon, or just in the not so distant future, I can give you some basic tips for flying safely based on my experience as an industry veteran. The experience should be somewhat more normal, and comforting given the new initiatives that airports, airlines, and authorities have put in place. Of course, its human that anyone would have some reasonable worries.
Triple Check Your Destination Entry Restrictions
IATA, the International Airline Transport Association has a COVID-19 Travel Regulations Map that covers country by country which also may even improve your geography. It will give you all the most up to date entry information and may be worth printing out, in case you have to argue with a check-in agent trying to stop you from going.
Some countries are demanding a recent negative test before they’ll allow you to board an inbound flight, whereas others have no requirements at all. Fortunately, the IATA page has all the info you need.
Essentially this should be the baseline, the fewer things you touch that you don’t know who’s touched them the better. Now is the time to make your own sandwich, pack your own fruit and snacks, and self-cater your way to happiness.
Airplane food was ever particularly exciting, and now you have the extra good reasons not to bother. My understanding is that for the most part, airlines are not really offering anything, even if you do want something, and yes, even in business class.
Do not forget that you can bring an empty reusable water bottle and fill up for free once through security. That will save you a few bucks and protect the environment.
Bring Your Own Wipes
In the last few months, I have noticed access to sanitizer is available in most places and it would also be at airports and airplanes. If you want to mitigate potential issues with things around you, bring your own wipes or disinfectant.
If you are making a return journey, do yourself a favour and bring enough for both flights. One less thing to worry about, and do not worry about the LAGS restrictions, most airports have increased limits on hand sanitizer to greater than 100ml.
Even though airlines claim they are going to extensive lengths to sanitize flights, I rather not take the chance on my personal safety. Accordingly, I have become more in love than ever with my tablet, laptop, and wireless earbuds.
If you do not have wireless buds, at least find some you can connect to your own stuff. Download the content for offline viewing, be it Netflix, Amazon Prime or iTunes, and that way you’re only tapping away or touching your own things. It never hurts to wipe them down.
Please bear in mind that the Australian government has banned non-essential travel, most travel insurance is invalidated, so for some travellers it may be best to wait until these restrictions are lifted. Let us hope those restrictions are lifted soon.
Take a change of clothes
After a flight, anyone would have felt a funny feeling before the COVID-19 pandemic, and the uneasy feeling might be a little extra now. Having a change of clothes would leave you with less to worry about with surface contact. I would change into a fresh outfit and subsequently, wash my hands after going through airport security.
Take an N95 Face Masks and change of filters
There is a clear divided opinion on wearing masks right now and I am not one of them, particularly in public places or if I must travel. I am of the opinion that they should be mandatory right now, for the simple reason that you don’t want to impact anyone else, and masks help reduce your spray of droplets when you talk, sneeze, or breath with your mouth open.
In addition to hand sanitizers and other personal stuff, bringing a few pairs of gloves never hurts either, so long as you remember not to touch your face or skin while wearing them. I recommend wearing the gloves through check-in and security, then discard them, or to wash your hands before getting on the plane.
As much as I like the personal interaction and to be given a proper boarding pass, but airports are not the places you want to hang about or congregate near others. Wherever possible, printing out your boarding pass, or better yet using your airline mobile app to bypass all the faff will save time, effort, and close physical contact with others.
Although this is easier said than done, on international trips where the airlines need to verify that you are eligible to fly and not restricted by country rules, this may take time, but for domestic flights, it should be easy.
Select a window or an exit door seat
If you can remember to select either a window or an exit row seat so that you don’t have to feel on your shoulders of at least 20 people brush past, or worse, hang around you as they wait to proceed down the aisle to their seat.
Wherever possible, putting yourself nearest the exit door of the aircraft, and in a window will ensure you easier access to being last on, and among the first off. With a window seat, if you have someone seating next on the same row, they will have to get up to let you through, and that way you will avoid any physical contact.
Expect the unexpected
Taking a trip with an open mind, or more importantly – an understanding that things could change – will only help to make the trip more enjoyable. From last-minute cancellations to randomized health checks, it will be a little while before travel returns to the normality experienced prior to COVID-19.
Things seem to be getting more normal by the day and countries are adding greater clarity as to all immigration procedures, including testing on arrival, or the need to produce a recent test before departure. Do your homework and you will have a smoother trip.