Monday, May 25, 2020

To fly or not to fly?

Now that states are loosening stay-at-home restrictions—and summer is approaching--people are starting to think about travel. First of all, ask yourself if the trip can wait. Staying home is the best way to control exposure to coronavirus and other pathogens.

If you are anxious to get away (and who isn’t?), probably the safest way to get from here to there is in your own automobile—the one you’ve been driving to the grocery store and other errands. Road trips are becoming the preferred means of travel for the foreseeable future.

But what if you’re hoping to travel to a far away location or can’t take the extra time that a long road trip entails? If taking your trip means flying in an airplane—or traveling by bus or train—there are things to consider before you book.

Are you ready to fly?

Can you overcome fear about things you can’t control? You won’t know anything about airport employees or other passenger—where they have come from, who they have been around, or what their health status is. Flying is out until you can deal with the unknowns. Then you think about what you can control and plan accordingly.

For any mode of public transportation, the primary concern is staying at least six feet away from other people (because you never know who might be infected—and it could be you). The longer you are stuck in a specific seat, the greater time you could be exposed to virus droplets in the air.

Also, think about shared surfaces such as door knobs, seat trays, and restroom handles. Although the risk of spreading the virus via hard surfaces is now thought to be minimal, the virus could be transmitted if you touch your face soon after touching a contaminated surface.

Minimize hazards before you fly

Capacity is increasing every week, so check to see
what the policy is for any flight you're considering.
If you choose to fly, be sure your airline has policies in place to minimize capacity (most are flying at 60 or 70 %) and to space passengers. Some airlines will not book middle seats and skip every other row. Others board from the back of the plane to minimize how many people passengers must pass on the way to their seats. Theoretically, the window seat is the least likely to have exposure, primarily because one side is a wall. But you can decide if that is the most convenient for yourself.

If you can, find out what kind of ventilation system the plane you’ll be traveling on has (not always easy to do). Look for a plane with a high ratio of outside air to re-circulated air as well as HEPA filters, which remove 99.9% of particles from the air.

Minimize hazards in the airport

Check in procedures usually require touching many surfaces. Use hand wipes on anything you touch. Also wipe down personal items others may touch such as a passport, ID, or luggage (if gate-checked or someone else helps you store a carryon bag). If you take a spray bottle of sanitizer, make sure it is less than three ounces as required by TSA.

Remember to wash thoroughly and for 20 seconds.
Of course, wash your hands often (for 20 seconds!) and use hand sanitizer in addition to (not in place of) soap and water. Don’t rely on gloves for protection because these can become contaminated, too. 

Some airlines require masks in the terminal prior to boarding and on the plane. Take extras, so you can change if needed, and store any not being used in individual sealed plastic baggies. Disinfect the mask before the next use or keep it sealed in the bag for 72 hours.
Zip bags are useful to help
keep items clean.

Safety in the air

Once on the plane, use wipes or sanitizer to disinfect surfaces around your seat. Keep your mask on as required by your airline or up to your tolerance level. If possible, stay seated during your flight. Moving around exposes you to more potential pathogens—including from surfaces touched and people passed.

Hand sanitizer is helpful when you can't
wash with soap and water.
We know it’s never possible to guarantee safe travels on an airplane. In fact, we are never totally away from all possible germs and viruses anywhere we go. 

But, if you decide to travel in the near future, please do so in a manner that protects yourself and others around you.

Photos from free sources

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