Who else gets excited when they hear the words, "This is your captain speaking. Flight attendants, please prepare for takeoff"? Traveling and taking vacations has always been compelling, but since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, it (rightfully) hasn't been the same. Small getaways, moving, and traveling home to be with family are just a few reasons people are getting on planes, but with the new Omicron variant, is traveling safe to do at all? Well, traveling doesn't have to be completely avoided, according to Senior Director of the System-wide Special Pathogens Program at NYC Health and Hospitals, Syra Madad.
"Vaccination plus COVID-19 prevention measures are our best strategy. This includes getting fully vaccinated and receiving your booster dose if eligible, getting tested before any gatherings, wearing a mask inside when around others, and opening windows or doors for better ventilation. When flying, be mindful when you remove your mask for food or beverage. It's best to stagger your snack when others are done and masked again." Madad told POPSUGAR via email.
POPSUGAR also spoke with a flight attendant for a major airline who wishes to remain anonymous about what you can do to have the safest flight possible. Keep reading for her tips, as well as recommended health and safety guidelines, ahead.
— Additional reporting by Haley Lyndes
Really Think Before You Go
Trust me — I've also been eyeing beach resort getaways and national park adventures, but anytime you get on a plane, you're putting yourself at risk. The Centers For Disease Control and Prevention poses a few things to think about before you go:
- Check the current COVID-19 situation at your destination.
- Make sure you understand and follow all state, local, and territorial travel restrictions, including mask-wearing, proof of vaccination, testing, or quarantine requirements.
- If traveling by air, check if your airline requires any testing, vaccination, or other documents.
- Prepare to be flexible during your trip as restrictions and policies may change during your travel.
If you do decide to travel by airplane, it's important to wear a mask the entire time, social distance when you can, wash your hands frequently, and wipe down your seat before and after use. This will help minimize the risk of getting COVID-19 or passing it to others before symptoms are present.
Listen to Your Flight Attendants
Just a friendly reminder that your flight attendants are trained professionals who know how to keep everyone safe onboard an aircraft, execute emergency procedures, and keep everyone calm during critical conditions. With that being said, they have also received training on flying during coronavirus, so they are great resources on flights.
"The most important thing customers can do is to keep their masks on while on a flight or at the airport and to stay socially distant," the flight attendant told POPSUGAR. "I would even suggest to passengers to eat a good, healthy meal before your flight, so you don't have to take off your mask to eat on the plane. Also, washing your hands is super important, and you should keep hand sanitizer with you and put it on before and after you eat or drink on the plane. And remember, don't touch the flight attendants if you need something. Having respect and being kind to flight attendants is so important."
Right now, many airlines are doing enhanced cleaning procedures between flights, but you should always stay cautious and remain vigilant. Feel free to call ahead and ask about their current policies before you book your flight.
Fly Alone If Possible
If you can, try not to travel with anyone right now, including family members and young children. Kids under 2 are not able to wear masks as it impedes their breathing, so they're more at risk automatically. Toddlers and older kids are more likely to touch everything, cough or sneeze without covering their mouths, play with their masks, put their fingers or hands in their mouths, and other unsafe practices. My kids love licking windows, which is also not really a good idea right now (or, um, ever?). If it's not possible to leave the little ones at home, then bring things to help distract them. Now is not the time to worry about screen time or sugary snacks — these will help keep them happy and keep their hands to themselves.