Tips for staying safe when flying during Covid-19
As I’ve been working on a few international flights during the pandemic, I wanted to share some tips on how we can all make Air Travel as much of a safe experience as possible right now. Please be aware that my content is based on personal experience as a flight attendant and officials’ information pieces. Personally, I would recommend anyone that doesn’t need to travel right now to stay at home. Nevertheless, some people have to travel for work or because their families live in another country. I am not judging any travel intentions; I’m just here to give some advice if you need to travel for whatever reason. Please be mindful of others and respect the rules! Now let’s dive into some flying safely during Covid-19 tips:
(There is a little FAQ about the safety of air travel concerning Covid-19. I’ve linked you some research and articles there, make sure to check those out!)
1. Pre-Flight preparations
Have a time buffer
Before we even think about what to pack and how to behave on a plane, we need to talk about the preparation. As you might have noticed, airlines aren’t working their regular schedules, so many connections aren’t existing right now. Weekly service from New York to Paris may only be departing three times a week those days. Now, what does that mean?
→ Check your connections and book the one that will leave you enough time if there are any delays or cancellations. Are you traveling to attend a wedding on a Friday? And there are flights on Tuesday and Thursday? Take the Tuesday one if you can. In case it gets canceled, you’ll still be able to get there in time by taking the next flight.
Dig into the airline rules
What’s their mask policy? Do they serve food? Do I need to bring any documents? These are all questions only your airline can answer. Every airline has different rules and procedures right now, so make sure you know what to expect. Some, for example, allow their passengers to fly with a community mask. Others require their guests to wear surgical or FFP2/KN95 masks.
If you need special assistance (e.g., wheelchair services), check if there are any changes to the usual procedures. Don’t be afraid to call and ask if you have any questions or if you’re unsure about the procedures.
Be prepared at the Entry
Entry procedures can take up some time right now, even though there are not as many passengers arriving as usual. There are so many forms and papers you need to bring and fill out. Some of the forms are constantly changing. How can you help the process?
→ First of all, know your destination’s rules. You need to have everything they require on hand. Check the government’s websites for the exact details like PCR Test requirements and what kind of forms you need to fill out. Many also need you to register for entry online – make sure to be aware of all those procedures and have everything downloaded and filled out correctly.
→ As soon as you’re up, make sure to have your documents ready. If you have any QR Codes from forms you had to fill out online, make sure to print those before your departure. Why? Imagine you forgot your charger and your phone battery died on the airplane. Do you know what I mean? Yeah…
Also, make sure to bring your test results (if required) in the language of your destination – or at least in English. Imagine me bringing a german form to US border control – that’s gonna take some time for them to find out what’s on it. We don’t want that. We want it smooth and easy.
Be aware of sudden changes
Regulations can change quickly nowadays, and you need to think about the consequences this might bring. Let me give you some examples:
→ Your destination gets declared as a risk area, and you all over a sudden need to quarantine for a certain amount of time as soon as you arrive back home. Would your boss be ok with that? Could you work from home? What about your family?
→ You’re arriving in a country that requires a test upon arrival. The test suddenly turns out to be positive. Do they bring you to an airport quarantine hotel? Who has to pay for that? Does your insurance cover that?
→ You’re off to a destination where you’d like to spend a nice day at the beach, go to restaurants and shops. Please keep in mind that all of that also can all over sudden close down shortly before or while you’re there if the number of cases is rising.
Pack the right stuff
Hand luggage must-haves nowadays must be hand sanitizer, disinfection wipes, and spare masks.
Besides all the hygiene essentials, I’d also recommend packing some things to entertain yourself. Many airport shops are still closed down and it can get boring if you’re not spending as much time strolling through duty-free’s as usual. Plus, one or two books more in your luggage for sure don’t hurt if you’re all over sudden finding yourself in quarantine, right?
Some authorities and airports have restricted the carrying of hand luggage because it reduces waiting time at the security checkpoints and helps speed up the (de-)boarding process. Make sure to check your airline for specific regulations. They’re trying their best so we can all fly safely during the Covid-19 pandemic.
2. On board tips
Wear a fitting mask throughout the time
This is an obvious fact, but trust me, some do struggle with that a lot. IF you can’t wear your mask all the time, consider staying home. By buying your airline ticket, you’re accepting their terms and conditions. Those declare everyone being obliged to wear a mask at all times. If you don’t do that, the crew can offload you off your flight or fine you. Please take the rules seriously! Wearing a mask at all time is one of the most important things to stay safe when flying during Covid-19!
But hey, I know it can be unconformable, so here are some tips to make wearing the mask a little easier.
→ Bring enough masks to change them regularly. I’d also check the mask types pre-flight since you don’t want to bring a set of masks that are a little too tight and hurt your ears on a 10h flight.
→ Bring essential oils or inhalation clips. This helps me a LOT to feel a little fresher. I use “AspUra Clips” for inhalation whenever I feel like I need a “deep breath,” lol. I also love peppermint roll on’s or lavender oil to make me feel better. (Those help with headaches as well!)
→ Turn on the air outlets above you. This makes you feel better when you feel a little “caged” and gives you the feeling of fresh, circulating air.
→ I always bring some makeup wipes to “refresh” my face whenever I start to feel greasy. Facial mists are great as well for a little freshness. I change my mask in the lavatory regularly and use that time to take some deep breaths. We all know those lavatories don’t smell the best, so I’d recommend bringing a little air freshening spray. (Make sure not to bring ones that atomize in small particles like hairspray or deodorant – they can turn on the smoke warn systems in the lavatories. Small perfume-like sprays are best.)
Bring your own food
Now, this has two specific reasons:
Some airlines may not provide any service during the flight, and many restaurants or shops to buy food at the airport are still closed down (depending on your airport).
It’s safer! Why? Because you don’t want to eat while others eat.
IF your airline is serving food, they will distribute it from the front to the back. Many airlines only provide you with boxes and cold food, so you don’t need to eat it right away. Some do the “regular” hot meal service. So what does that mean? As soon as the food reaches the passenger, everyone takes their mask off and starts eating. This obviously leads to what we try to avoid: many people in one compartment not wearing a mask simultaneously.
I’d recommend keeping your mask on and eat later when the service is finished. Then, your surrounding passengers will have their masks back on, and you can enjoy your food with a little more safety.
How to socially distance on an airplane
Well, this is probably the hardest thing. You might be lucky to find yourself on an empty plane and have plenty of space around you. But you might as well be on a fully booked flight.
Even though you don’t know what to expect until you board your plane, there are still some precautions you can take concerning your social distance onboard.
→ Try to book a seat in the rear of the plane. Why? Because…
… most airline’s seating systems “fill up” the plane from front to back. All the passengers that didn’t book a seat in advance will be assigned to their seats. Even though many airlines try to keep middle seats free, the system will start filling it up from the front. By choosing a seat in the back, you are more likely not to get anyone seated next to you if the plane isn’t fully booked. (please note that that may not always be the case, systems are getting overruled by gate agents, and other circumstances like aircraft changes can change seat maps completely)
… you can see the cabin during boarding – which means you can observe the cabin if there are any empty rows around you if someone is taking his seat next to you. Like this, you’ll know where you could switch to after boarding is completed.
… there are not too many people passing by during boarding and de-boarding. Less contact = More safety 🙂 I’d also go for the window seat to avoid other passengers passing by too close when they need to go to the lavatory.
→ Talk to the airline staff.
A friendly asked question never hurts. If there is some capacity, ask the ground staff if your flight is fully booked or if there’s someone seated next to you. You can also ask the cabin crew: explain that – if possible – you’d like to switch to a seat where no one is next to you. We sometimes already know before boarding if (and where) we have some open space and will be happy to help.
Please, be friendly when you ask and show some understanding. We can’t re-seat everyone and complain about the other people on the plane isn’t the right thing to do. If you want to fly, you also need to know that someone might get seated next to you. We do try to spread passengers as distanced as possible, but it’s not always possible.
That’s it for the “flying during Covid-19 tips”! If you’ve made it all the way to the end, you’re well prepared for your flight. Make sure to check back everything with your airline and destination. As I mentioned, regulations change often, and some countries require procedures that others don’t. Please, be responsible when you travel right now: keep your mask on, keep the distance, and don’t fly when you’re feeling sick. If we’re all making sure to follow the rules and try to stay as safe as possible when flying during the Covid-19 pandemic, we can make a huge difference!
I hope you’re having a safe flight! Take care of yourself and the ones around you. Be kind to each other <3
As always, stay happy and healthy!
See you soon,
FAQ - Flying during Covid-19
Any form of contact with other people can increase our risk of getting infected, right? So going to the airport and boarding a plane will for sure increase your risk of getting COVID-19 more than staying at home in your apartment. However, an airplane is probably safer than a packed subway on a Monday morning. Why? HEPA Filters!
→ ” Most modern jet aircraft are equipped with High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters. These filters have similar performance to those used in hospital operating theatres and industrial clean rooms. These HEPA filters are 99.9+% effective at removing viruses, bacteria, and fungi. “
– Source: iata.org.
You can read more about cabin air quality here:
This totally depends on your route. First, you need to check the regulations of your destination. Do they require everyone to enter to quarantine? Or did they declare risk areas, and only passengers coming from those areas need to quarantine? And what if I have citizenship? As you can see, this is totally individual and depends on your destination and your current location, as well as the countries you’ve spent the last 14 days in.
Most airlines worldwide require passengers to wear masks and cut down unnecessary Items or procedures to be as safe as possible. Many also canceled or reduced the in-flight service. The exact precautionary measures differ from airline to airline, and I’d suggest checking your specific airline, as they’re all having their hygiene concepts on their websites. Here are two examples:
Passengers are required to wear masks during their stay on board, except for eating and drinking. Depending on the destination, you may also need to wear gloves or other PEE. When you’re checking in at DXB airport or whenever you fly into Dubai, you’ll be handed a hygiene kit (Masks, Gloves, Wipes,…). The boarding area is cleaned after every departure, and seats are spaced in the gate area. The boarding will take place in small groups from the last row to the first to minimize contacts. All aircraft are frequently being cleaned and disinfected – especially the lavatories. (…)
Passengers are required to wear masks during their stay on board, except for eating and drinking. The masks have to be surgical masks or FFP2/KN95 masks. Community masks are no longer allowed. Onboard, you will be given disinfection wipes. Lufthansa Hubs offer digital baggage drop-off kiosks and modified security screening. The boarding will also take place in small groups to ensure social distancing. The on-board service has been simplified to minimize contact. All aircraft are frequently cleaned and disinfected, especially the lavatories or items with frequent use like fold-out tables or seat belts. (…)