After having flown from Europe to the US and back again, I have a good idea of what the current state of airline travel is. So, here are my tips for flying during Covid-19 that I hope will help you if you are getting ready to take to the skies soon.
5 Tips for Flying During Covid-19
Try Out Your Mask For a Couple/Few Hours, Pre-Flight
While many people now may be used to wearing a mask while running into a store or taking public transportation, wearing a mask for 3-13 hours on an airplane (not to mention while in the airport) is a whole different situation.
What you need to do is to make sure whichever mask you wear will be comfortable for such a long time. I have a terrible time with the normal surgical masks that are quite common. They pull into my ears and my breathing is much more labored using one of them. I opted instead for a different mask with softer ear anchors/straps and it felt much more comfortable.
With so many airlines now requiring a mask while onboard, you certainly do not want to be torn between following these rules and having ear discomfort for a few hours! So, get a mask and try it out before you head to the airport.
Pack a Lunch or Some Other Snack
Airlines were already cutting back on economy service before Covid-19 and they have taken those cutbacks to a whole new level during this time. For instance, even water is not served on some flights now! With many airport shops shut down and even lounges still being closed in multiple locations, getting food on the premises is not as easy as it used to be – even if you want to pay the airport “surcharge” for that food.
This means that packing food will be even more important than before. Pack some things in your bag that will last you until your destination because you definitely cannot count on getting much, if any, food on the way. Oh, but be ready to take it all out at TSA checkpoints because, well, because they say you have to. 🙂
Many airlines are reducing the amount of luggage you can take into the cabin with you. The idea is that they do not want people standing in aisles longer than they have to and they also do not want people touching people’s bags in the overhead bins.
This means that some of these airlines are saying just on small bag or personal item will be allowed onboard. The other, regularly allowed bag will be checked underneath. For business class, this may not apply – it will depend on the airline and the gate agents.
This could be a good time to examine your carryon game and see how you can pack even smaller than before. I have found that with my new Knack bag, this is actually quite doable.
Consider Picking a Seat Near the Front of the Plane
Even though it may cost a few extra dollars, picking a seat near the front of the plane guarantees that you will be on the plane for less time than other travelers – at least with all the airlines currently boarding back to front (and there are many).
Many airlines have scrapped elites being able to board at their leisure and have said they need to board with their seat rows. If you are in the back of the plane, you will be the first one on and the last one off the plane. Not ideal if you want to be onboard for the least time possible.
I absolutely love being one of the first people off an airplane. It means that I face far fewer lines at places like security (for transit locations that require it), transportation, passport control, baggage areas, shuttle buses, and rental car pickups. In normal times, that is great. Under the Covid-19 situation, it can mean that much less time being in proximity with people that are samples from all over the US or world (depending on where you are).
US airlines do charge for those seats but if you want to be last on/first off, it may be worth it to you to pay that fee. If not, at least try to snag a seat right behind those paid seats. Also, when it comes to paying for seats, many people hate paying for seats so it may mean you could even find you do not have a seat mate! No guarantees on that one, though! 🙂
Oh, and one of the biggest reasons to not board last is always overhead bin space – but since airlines are limiting onboard baggage, this shouldn’t be an issue.
Leave Extra Time for Bigger Airports
Even though there are still many airports that are dealing with far fewer flights than normal, the advice from many airlines is still to arrive at some of the larger, international airports with plenty of time before your flight’s departure.
While you still may be at the gate in record time, consider these points. TSA is not running as many security checkpoints as normal and Precheck may not be open at many locations. Some airlines are flying only a fraction of their normal flights to certain major destinations and this means those flights are packed. Those check-in lines for luggage and document checks will be long!
Finally, some airports may have some health checks in place like simple temperature checks or possible forms to fill out. While you never really want to miss your flight on a normal day, you definitely do not want to miss your flight during a time when schedules have been cut – it could take a day or two before you can get another flight!
Bonus Tip Good for Anytime – Bring Your Own Entertainment
With people trying to eliminate touchpoints, having control over your own entertainment device and headphones is definitely a way to go. This means making sure you are charged up (or bring a portable power pack) and have whatever you want downloaded before you arrive at the airport.
Again, this is good advice for anytime but especially now!
Travel has definitely changed due to Covid-19. With more people heading to the skies everyday, it can help to know what to expect. Hopefully, these tips will help you prepare for when you return to the skies.
If you have flown during this time, feel free to leave some of your own tips below as well!