/Airport Safety Tips in the Age of Covid

Airport Safety Tips in the Age of Covid

A Covid-19 Guide to Staying Safe in the Airport

As the holiday season approaches, health experts offer advice on how to best protect yourself from the coronavirus if you plan to travel by plane.
If you’re planning on flying over the holidays, you probably know the drill: universal mask rules, buckets of hand sanitizer and, maybe, an empty adjacent seat. But your journey begins and ends at the airport. And, according to some medical experts, that presents another set of potential risks. “The airport is the real wild card,” says William Morice, chairman of the Mayo Clinic’s department of laboratory medicine and pathology and president of Mayo Clinic Laboratories. Here some tips on how best to stay safe.

Take care when moving around the airport. At some airports, you can’t avoid subway-style people-mover systems. Like other mass transit operations, they are getting sanitized more often, but there have been anecdotal reports of crowded trams. If you can, pick a less hectic time to fly or leave extra time to walk between terminals.

Be alert at TSA checkpoints. You may be asked to lower your mask for an identification check, but otherwise, keep your face covered. Lanes are marked off for social distancing, as they are in many public places, but travelers anxious to get through can sometimes bunch up.

Be careful with high-touch surfaces. The TSA and Delta Air Lines have rolled out bins made of bacteria-resistant material at some of the airline’s hubs. But they aren’t available everywhere. Grab some fresh wipes before you enter the checkpoint and use them to protect your hands when touching anything.

Bring sanitizer. The TSA has relaxed the 3.4-ounce limit on liquids to allow passengers to bring up to 12 ounces of hand sanitizer, so there’s no excuse not to load up.

Try to limit connections. “My biggest concern is layovers,” says Dr. Morice. “If you are going to be flying over Thanksgiving, and you’re in a crowded environment, it’s important to stay vigilant.”

Avoid the pre-flight party. If you’ve got time between flights, stay away from the crowd. People are at the highest risk of being exposed to Covid when they eat and drink in close quarters, says Dr. Morice, who advises travelers to bring a brown-bag meal from home and eat it in a quiet place.

Use the restroom before boarding. That way, says Rebecca Acosta, a registered nurse and executive director of Traveler’s Medical Service in New York, you may be able to avoid the more cramped quarters of the plane’s lavatory, where you could be exposed to the germs of the previous occupants. Don’t don’t remove your mask once you’re behind a door because germs can linger in the air.

Gate departure. Some carriers already are fixing this much-hated drill, boarding planes from back to front, for example, and in smaller groups. If possible, try to board early—some airlines will sell you this privilege. Pack light; a smaller bag will be easier to stow.

Bring a well-curated carry-on. Ms. Acosta recommends packing disinfectant wipes, so you can wipe down anything you could touch—seat-back video screens, tray tables, armrests and window shades. Bring multiple masks, too, in case one gets damaged or soiled. Some fliers are packing goggles or clear face shields as an added precaution, but no airline, in the U.S. at least, requires them.

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Appeared in the November 14, 2020, print edition as ‘.’