To help reduce the spread of COVID-19, Canada continues to advise against non-essential travel. However, work demands, medical issues or family emergencies can make travel unavoidable. While any movement in a pandemic does come with risk, air quality on a commercial airline is actually quite high and experts have confirmed that flying is often safer than you think. Airlines have also added safety measures including temperature checks, symptom screening, distanced seating whenever possible and increased disinfecting practices, which should ease some of your concerns. While these procedures will help keep you safe, there are also steps you can take throughout your journey to help you fly thoughtfully, safely and responsibly:
Keep your distance—Crowded flights, security lines and airport terminals can make social distancing difficult and it may require extra time and patience to keep your space. Do your best to maintain distance from travellers and airline staff as you go through security, baggage check and boarding the plane, and be sure to use any markings on the floor to guide you. While not always an option, if you are given the choice, experts recommend a window seat away from passenger foot traffic. Limit your interactions with other travellers and airline staff as much as possible and only remove your mask for identification purposes.
Pack a little differently—When you go through airport security, certain personal items such as food, liquids and electronics will need to be removed from bags and pockets to be declared. To help reduce contact with these items, put them into plastic bags that can be placed in bins safely. Other items like keys and wallets should be moved from pockets into your carry-on or purse before entering the security line. Agents should be changing their gloves between each passenger and it’s okay to double check with them that this has happened before moving forward.
Do your own cleaning— While airlines have adopted extra disinfecting procedures, it is always a good idea to do your own cleaning as well. For added protection, bring sanitizing wipes to disinfect the armrests, seat, food tray, air vents, entertainment system, headrest, window blind and any other surfaces you may use during your flight.
Limit your contact—Avoid high-touch surfaces like handrails, elevator buttons and kiosks as much as possible and if you have to touch these surfaces make sure you use hand sanitizer or wash your hands immediately after. Sanitize your hands regularly throughout your travels and after every check point, and as always, avoid touching your face.
Double check procedures—Travel insurance may be affected by the pandemic. Before leaving, contact your insurance company directly to make sure that you’re covered if you do get sick with COVID-19 or experience another medical issue. It’s also a good idea to talk to your doctor about any additional precautions you should take based on your own medical history.
Don’t fly sick—Protect yourself and other travellers by not flying when you are sick. In an effort to keep everyone safe, many airlines are doing temperature checks and screening and are turning away passengers who have any symptoms, regardless of whether they are related to COVID-19.
If unavoidable, air travel can be relatively low-risk especially if you’re seated next to members of your household, you wear a mask throughout, and you regularly sanitize your hands and surfaces. Keep in mind that in addition to your time in an airplane, travel also involves ground transportation, eating in restaurants, public washrooms and accommodations, so it’s important to keep up safety measures throughout your trip. Also be sure to follow any self-isolation requirements at both your destination and after returning home.