How to fly safer this holiday season
(CNN) – If you are participating the skies to visit friends and family over the holidays, prepare to squeeze through crowded airports, packed planes, and crazed baggage with millions of travelers.
“Everybody knows how close they will be to others on the plane,” said Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants, a union representing flight attendants in the US. “But they might not take into account how full those airports are. There’s no space. There’s no social distancing.”
“People need to understand that there is a federal mask policy in place,” she said. “It starts at the airport door and continues throughout the entire process until you leave the airport at your destination.”
Here are eight tips on how to keep you and your family safe – and reduce stress – while flying this holiday season.
Travelers wait in line at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport last November. This year, air travel on Thanksgiving will be close to pre-pandemic levels.
Image by David Ryder / Getty
1) Take your child over 5 years old for vaccinations and boosters
Children in the United States 5 years of age and older are currently eligible for the Covid-19 vaccine, but like adults, are not fully protected until two weeks after the second dose. Because there isn’t enough time between vaccines and Thanksgiving for children this age to get a second shot, children won’t be fully vaccinated during Thanksgiving travel. thanks.
Parents and children should continue to use masks and stay away from society during travel and consider taking Wen said a quick Covid test before gathering with family.
If you’re an adult who hasn’t had a booster shot after being fully vaccinated earlier this year, please do so now, she added.
“We know that immunity to symptomatic infection wanes over time, so I strongly advise anyone who is eligible to get a boost.” Get vaccinated at least two weeks before going on vacation with your family, says Wen.
2) Fly overtime and on less busy days
If you can get to and from your destination during less busy travel days, you and your family will see fewer people, says Linsey Marr, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Virginia Tech. may be more successful in social distancing. leading expert on virus transmission aerosols.
“That’s especially important if you have a child under the age of two who can’t wear a mask,” says Marr. “You can also try to book flights during off-peak hours, later in the evening or very early in the morning, to avoid the crowds.”
Because few people have more than a few days off for Thanksgiving, peak travel usually occurs the day before Thanksgiving, this year November 24, and Sunday, November 28. November 25 this year is usually less busy .
People check in for their flight at LaGuardia Airport on November 25, 2020.
Image of Michael M. Santiago / Getty
3) Book a window seat
Experts recommend booking window seats for unvaccinated children (or adults), in part due to vents along the interior panels of most planes.
“We think the lowest-risk seat is the window seat, as air circulation patterns may be better for a window seat,” says Marr.
“That’s where you have fresh air pumped up, so most of the airflow happens at the window,” says Nelson.
Another added benefit: “You don’t have people walking past you in the aisle,” says Marr.
A passenger wears a mask on a flight from San Francisco, California to Newark, New Jersey in October 2020.
Image Michael Loccisano / Getty
4) Wear a high-quality, well-fitting filter mask
Invest in a high-quality travel mask, experts say, one that will capture about 95% of virus-sized particles when snugly against the face.
“I would definitely recommend to tourists, including children, to wear a high-quality mask – ideally N95 or KN95 or KF94,” said Wen. “And there are many sizes for these high-quality masks, so you can get one that fits.”
Fit is important, says Marr, as is comfort. Find a mask that fits each face individually and is comfortable enough that you or your child can wear it for hours, says Marr.
“If when you exhale, you feel air coming through your eyes or leaking out your sides, you know it’s not right,” says Marr. Lots of different masks to see what will suit you best. “
Passengers arrive at Los Angeles International Airport ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday on November 25, 2020.
Patrick T. Fallon / AFP via Getty Images
5) Arrive early
Don’t expect to skim the airport. It takes more time to social distance during baggage drop and security check – if that’s even possible. And opening US borders to international visitors, while good news for the US economy, could mean further delays.
“It’s really good news and only people who have been vaccinated can come to the US. However, this influx gives travelers more paperwork that needs to be checked, which can really make a difference. everything slows down,” Nelson said.
“Plan to arrive an hour earlier than usual to give yourself plenty of time so you don’t feel stressed about not completing the process and being on time for your flight.”
Families reunite at Dulles International Airport on November 8, 2021, as the United States reopens to vaccinated international travelers.
OLIVIER DOULIERY / AFP / AFP via Getty Images
6) Be prepared for security
Savvy travelers know how to minimize the time they spend on security. That includes no change, no belts, and no lace-up shoes. Seasoned travelers should remove their watch and stash a jacket or coat in advance – and have a laptop and toiletries ready to pull out and stash in the bin.
But even seasoned travelers seem to forget how to fly through these long and dry periods, says Nelson: “I see people who used to be frequent travelers, now coming back for the first time after a while. for a long time and each person’s pocket was set aside because they had something forbidden, such as a water bottle.
“It’s like everyone just forgot how to travel! So that creates more chaos,” she said.
Nelson added: Each airline has a link to a list of prohibited items on their website, “and you should review those before packing.”
7) Postpone your meal
Because federal guidelines require a mask to be worn at all times, except when eating or drinking “for short periods of time,” Nelson recommends changing your mask whenever you take a break from eating.
“If you’re actively eating, bit by bit, bite by bite, we’re not saying you have to lower and lift your mask,” says Nelson. “But if you’re biting into a sandwich, putting it down, looking at your phone, it takes a while, the idea is that you lift the mask up while you’re chewing until you’re ready for your next bite.”
You can also protect yourself by eating when everyone else is wearing a mask, Marr suggested.
“When they come around and serve drinks and snacks, I’ll take it but I don’t eat them right away because that’s when other people take off their masks,” she said. “I waited to eat until everyone finished eating and put on masks.”
8) Take your seat if you can
Getting up and moving brings you closer to others on the plane who may or may not be vaccinated or follow mask-wearing instructions. Although the risk of Covid-19 from such exposures may be small, there are other concerns.
The airline industry has seen an explosion of unruly passenger incidents in 2021, including a recent case in which a flight attendant was punched in the nose. While not all of those changes were due to the mask, a good number were due, Nelson said.
“It may not be just Covid that is a risk,” Nelson said. “It could be a total scuffle, and you could be beaten by someone who’s flirting.”
Flight attendants suggest staying in your seat if such an incident occurs.
“We are trained in skills and how to guide others to help,” she said. “So unless there’s an immediate threat of people getting hurt, we strongly advise passengers not to act on their own as it could inadvertently make the situation worse.”
Top image: Travelers go through security at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport on November 29, 2020. (Photo by David Ryder / Getty Images)