Traveling During the Coronavirus Pandemic – What to Expect
As we struggle to deal with all the changes and uncertainty in our lives due to this pandemic, Airport Assistance would like to help those seeking guidance on what to expect when making their way back to the airport to travel once again.
How Travel Has Changed
Before Covid-19 struck its brutal blow across the globe, the prospect of flying on a plane with low occupancy and more than ample space to relax would have been very enticing. Today, in this new environment, customers are looking for assurance that their health and safety are being protected before taking their next trip. To reassure reluctant travelers, many new measures have been implemented by airline carriers and TSA.
Seemingly, the lack of clientele at this stage should allow for adequate spacing between passengers, but there have been reports of particular flights at full or near full capacity. If this is the case, airlines will attempt to notify passengers, allowing them to reschedule or cancel. Gate agents and flight attendants may need to adjust seating assignments to maintain the proper spacing between passengers.
What Airlines are Doing
Nerd Wallet reports that all carriers are now requiring face masks for their personnel and encouraging passengers to do the same. Jet Blue was one of the first to implement the required face mask policy.
If face masks aren’t available, other acceptable facial coverings for passengers include bandanas, scarves, even a t-shirt will suffice if you are in a bind. In some cases, airlines are providing face masks (hand sanitizer as well) if passengers misplace or forget to bring their own. Children are exempt from wearing a face mask, as are travelers with certain health conditions. To provide an extra level of safety, Philippine Air and Emirates are requiring their crew members to wear visors and disposable gowns over their uniforms.
Travelers will experience reduced points of human contact throughout the airport. Mobile solutions and virtual kiosks will be significant components of the check-in process. At locations where person to person contact is unavoidable (check-in counter, security checkpoint, boarding gate), plastic shields have been installed at many airports.
To avoid the usual crowding while boarding and deplaning, procedures have been modified. For example, passengers are boarding in smaller groups and allowed more time to get settled in. Also, a few airlines have started boarding the back of the plane first to limit the amount of passenger contact. While deplaning, passengers should remain seated until the row of passengers directly in front of them is clear. Flight attendants will assist in this process to maintain social distancing.
Some Airlines Took Early, Proactive Measures
As early as February, Cathay Pacific announced passengers should expect to see fewer items handed out to while in flight – things such as pillows, blankets, hot towels, reading materials, etc. as Business Insider reports. In-flight meals or snacks will also be reconfigured or even entirely eliminated, as is the case with Southwest Airlines.
Another precautionary measure that is becoming more common at airports worldwide is the screening of travelers’ temperatures with contactless infrared thermometers. Air Canada, Air France, Singapore Airlines, Malaysia Airlines, and Cathay Pacific are a few examples of airlines that have announced plans to utilize this measure. U.S. carriers are encouraging TSA to conduct temperature screenings at the security checkpoint. Currently, the only U.S. carrier to announce their own temperature screenings is Frontier, which is scheduled to begin on June 1. For some Emirates flights, the airline plans to conduct rapid result blood tests for coronavirus before boarding.
As Market Watch reported back in February, after each flight on a U.S. carrier, hard surfaces touched by passengers – lavatories, tray tables, armrests, seat-back screens and pockets, window shades, seat belts, and overhead bins – are getting a wipe down with hospital grade, EPA-approved disinfectant. More thorough deep cleanings are done periodically. Some airlines are utilizing a fog machine to spray an aerosolized disinfectant that coats the air and every surface in the cabin.
Changes to Expect at TSA
TSA offers their helpful travel advisory: “We are advising travelers to place personal items such as wallets, key or phone in their carry-on bag to be screened through the X-ray system. Anything that you would hold up to your face that’s in your pockets – put those items in your carry-on bag, not in the bin”.
TSA has also adopted a new policy allowing up to a 12 oz. bottle of hand sanitizer in a carry-on bag. However, this must be screened by TSA separately and will lengthen the time spent going through security
Ways to Make Your Journey Easier
Traveling is stressful enough as it is, add to that a global pandemic and anxiety soars. Although many will choose not to travel during this time, some may have no choice. Whether you’re a frontline medical worker traveling to another city for work, or a business traveler whose in-person role is essential, or even if you need to visit a family member, finding ways to ease the stress associated with traveling during a pandemic can be difficult. Airport Assistance Worldwide will be ready for you when that moment comes.
Helping you Navigate Airports Safely
Our essential airport assistance services can help you navigate the airport safely. We’ll help you with the check-in process, direct you through security checkpoints, and get you to your boarding gate on time. Our agents know the least crowded sections of the airport, which terminals have more hand sanitizer, and where to find the one and only Starbucks that’s open. The health and safety of our agents and customers is our utmost priority. All our agents are required to wear face coverings for their protection and yours. When you’re ready, we will be here. If you choose to travel, be safe, and have a pleasant trip!
Airport Assistance Worldwide will be on the lookout for revisions to any of these policies or procedures and provide updates accordingly.
Center for Disease Control
World Health Organization
National Institute of Health