Flying during a pandemic, Is it safe?

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Travelers wear masks in Ft. Lauderdale Airport. Photo by Diane Emeott-Korzen.

By: Diane Emeott-Korzen
Contributing Writer

Boarding an airplane in the age of COVID-19 remains an unconquered challenge to many.

Despite a small uptick in air travel in June, airline industry experts don’t expect a complete recovery until 2024, the International Air Transport Association reported at the end of July.

The public’s fear of contracting Coronavirus has kept airplanes about half full, despite a number of new safety measures introduced by the airlines.

These include required wearing of masks, electrostatic spraying of planes to sanitize, and using HEPA filtration systems to make air quality cleaner.

Spirit uses two EPA-registered fogging treatments to disinfect their aircrafts. The first applies a safe, high-grade disinfectant that’s effective against coronaviruses. The second uses an antimicrobial product that forms an invisible barrier on all surfaces to kill bacteria and viruses on contact for 30 days.

Passengers were kept apart with unfilled seats.
Photo by Diane Emeott-Korzen.

Alaska, Delta, JetBlue and Southwest are all committed to blocking middle seats, according to Forbes magazine.

On a recent Spirit flight from Ft. Lauderdale to Detroit, with seats randomly assigned by the airline, only the aisle seat and window seat were assigned. (One of every three seats on both sides of the aisle was vacant.) In rows where families wished to sit together, some chose to fill the aisle and middle seat, keeping the window seat empty — or vice versa.

Strangely, both Ft. Lauderdale Airport and Detroit had all airport restaurants shut down behind heavy, pull down, metal grates. The kind of thing you might expect to see during a midnight arrival was the new order of business — whether at 7:30 a.m., 10:30 a.m., 5:30 p.m. or 10:30 p.m.

Only one airport convenience store selling bottled drinks, candy bars, reading materials, etc. was generally open in each wing of both airports. No Mickey D’s, coney dog shops, or sports bar/restaurants were open at this time.

An exception in Ft. Lauderdale was a coffee shop still selling hot coffee — with a long line of travelers willing to nearly miss their flights just to get a cup of joe.

Anyone wishing to fly should bring their own fruit and granola bar, or other food. Food, but no liquids, is still allowed through TSA checkpoints. As before, any drinks must be discarded before entering the TSA checkpoint, and purchased again on the other side.

On our outbound flight, only large electronic devices, such as a laptop computer, were required to be taken out of carry-on bags at the TSA checkpoint.

Also, In the middle of the TSA checkpoint, all passengers had to walk past a constantly moving canine and its TSA officer/master, there to sniff out potential explosives, drugs or possibly COVID.

Passengers and all airline and airport workers are required to wear masks at all times. The only time masks can be removed, briefly, is to drink a beverage or eat a snack. Passengers are asked to quickly replace the mask over their nose and mouth, whether they are remaining in their seat or getting up to head to the restroom.

Trays and armrests are best left in the “up” position, unless you can get a gloved airline attendant to lower yours upon delivering a drink, or you use a napkin to avoid touching the surface.

If you are going to put your tray down, consider covering it with a napkin or wiping it down with hand sanitizer or wet wipes. (Gloves may be used.)

The TSA now allows domestic passengers to bring a 12 oz. hand sanitizer in checked and carry-on bags. (All other liquids, gels and aerosol must be 3.4 ounces or less, and carried in a one quart bag.)