10 Things Flight Attendants Want You to Know About Flying During a Pandemic

Keep yourself and everyone else safe by following airline rules and taking extra precautions when flying during a pandemic.

Ready for Takeoff?

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Flying during covid-19

Air travel has always had its share of special rules, and precautions multiplied considerably after 9/11. Now, due to COVID-19, folks have a host of new concerns about flying—but fortunately, you can prepare for takeoff in ways that will protect you, your fellow passengers, and the flight crew from contracting and spreading the virus. While getting on a plane may be a bit more complicated at the moment, forewarned is forearmed, so if you’ll be traveling, read up right here to learn 10 crucial things that flight attendants want you to know before boarding begins.

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You Must Don a Mask

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Wear mask when flying during covid-19

Some airlines, including Delta, will permanently ban passengers who refuse to wear a mask during flights after repeated requests by flight attendants. Others, such as United, are temporarily banning passengers. For most airlines, children under the age of two are exempt from this requirement, and if passengers contend to have a valid medical condition or other excuse for eschewing a mask, they must check their airline’s policy prior to their trip to see if they’ll be welcomed aboard. Southwest is currently not transporting passengers who cannot wear a mask, even for medical reasons. Many airports now require you to don a mask inside terminals too. The only time you may be asked to remove your mask briefly is when confirming your ID at security check-in. Tip: Travel with at least two fresh masks, whether disposable or reusable, so that you can change to a new one after you reach your destination and wash up.

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Social Distancing Policies Vary

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Social distancing air travel

You’re wise to find out how the airline you use practices social distancing measures. At press time, only a few airlines were keeping middle seats open, including Delta and Southwest (which has vowed to do so through October 2020). If you’re concerned about sitting next to strangers who might be carrying the virus, check the particular airline’s current passenger capacity policy before booking a trip. If an airline isn’t blocking the middle seat or is operating at close to full capacity, you could end up being much closer to people than you’re comfortable with during the flight.

Related: 10 Things to Know Before Getting on an Airplane

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Cleanliness Is Paramount

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Cleanliness air travel during Covid-19

Airlines are taking extra precaution to keep spaces cleaned and disinfected for everyone’s protection. Alaska Airlines, for example, claims its crews are paying more attention to cleaning frequently touched spaces, such as arm rests, seat belts, tray tables, overhead controls, light buttons, and the exterior and interior door handles for the bathrooms. This is performed on planes that are on the ground longer than an hour. Electrostatic sanitizing spray is also in use to disinfect all aircrafts at all hubs. This electrically charged spray essentially traps droplets on surfaces, allowing cleaning crews to wipe them up rather than spread them around. British Airways claims its planes are disinfected after every flight and completely cleaned “from nose to tail” daily. They also sanitize surfaces such as your seat, screen, seat buckles, and tray tables before every flight. If you have concerns or questions about what your particular airline is doing to disinfect and clean planes between flights, reach out to them before your trip!

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Hand Sanitizer Restrictions Have Changed

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Hand sanitizer liquid rules TSA

In terms of what you personally can do in the disinfection department, know that the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) now allows passengers to carry one 12-ounce bottle of hand sanitizer with them on board. Because carrying all other liquids remains limited to 3.4 ounces or 100 milliliters as usual, toting a larger bottle of hand sanitizer may make the check-in screening process a bit longer. Also, the current amount allowed is subject to change, so it’s a good idea to check with the TSA about restrictions for carry-on hand sanitizer as the pandemic continues.

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New Food and Beverage Rules Apply

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Food and beverage rules during Covid-19 flights

Some airlines no longer offer passenger meals in any travel class, and may also restrict drink orders, to minimize flight attendant interaction with passengers. As far as toting your own food and beverage, check the airline’s policy the day before your trip to be prepared. If food and beverages are permitted during the flight, you’ll be allowed to remove your mask when eating and drinking.

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Feeling Ill? Stay Home!

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Stay home if sick during Covid-19

If you have any type of illness, are visibly unwell, or have a fever, be aware that some airlines may not allow you to board your flight. For example, Air Canada is conducting temperature screenings on all passengers flying both within Canada and on flights in and out of the country. If you have an elevated temperature, you will be denied boarding and provided with information about seeking medical care and rescheduling your flight. Other airlines, such as American Airlines, are simply asking passengers if they have been free of COVID symptoms for 14 days. If you have a fever, cough, congestion, body aches, or other symptoms of COVID, reschedule your flight.

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First Class Isn’t Always Safer

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First class travel during Covid-19

COVID-19 doesn’t care if you’re rich or poor, and the section you book—first, business, or economy class—won’t necessarily offer you a safer trip. Sitting in first class may not reduce your chances of contracting the virus, because there is no middle seat to leave vacant in this section, and not all airlines are reducing first class capacity. Check airline passenger capacity in each section before going for a pricier ticket.

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Window Seats May Be Safer

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Window seats safer during Covid-19

A window seat keeps you further away from the aisle, where flight attendants and other passengers are walking throughout the flight. People in window seats are also less likely to move around on a flight, reducing their chances of coming into contact with others. For your own peace of mind, you may wish to pay for advance seat selection and lock down that window seat.

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Air Vents Should Stay Open

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Air vents on during Covid-19

The majority of planes use high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters, which help bring in outside air and remove 99.97 percent of airborne particles, including bacteria, dust, pollen, and mold. This will help keep unfiltered air away from your face and reduce the chances that you would inhale contaminated respiratory droplets. Opening your air vent (located above your seat) can offer extra protection because it moves airborne particles away from you and to the ground, creating cleaner air for you to breathe. The air blowing from this vent can be cold, so bring a sweatshirt or a blanket for the flight.

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Wash Once You Land

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Wash hands after flying during Covid-19

Refrain from touching your face until you reach your destination, then head immediately to a restroom to thoroughly wash your hands. Then remove your mask (depositing it in the trash if disposable) and wash your face. Put on a fresh mask when exiting the restroom to wear at baggage claim and elsewhere inside the airport.

Related: 12 Healthy Habits to Keep Even After Covid-19

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