Most nonessential travel plans have been cut short, postponed, or canceled altogether amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, but now that people have been at home for months and certain states are starting to slowly reopen, many are wondering if they can get on a plane to finally take a vacation. If you're itching to fly somewhere new but aren't sure what the current rules or risks are, here's everything you need to know.
Am I Allowed to Fly Right Now?
The bottom line is that traveling increases the spread of COVID-19 and your chance of getting it. The Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends staying at home if your trip isn't essential, if you're at higher risk for illness, or if you're currently ill. If travel is essential, the CDC suggests washing hands often, wearing proper face coverings, and avoiding close contact with others. Although air filtered through planes makes it more difficult to spread diseases (I knew I always liked airplane air!), close quarters with others in seats or at the airport can increase the possibility of infection.
If I Have to Travel, Are Planes Safe Right Now?
Luckily, popular airlines like Delta, United, and Southwest have rapidly adjusted their rules and guidelines to follow social distancing rules. Complaints from passengers about overcrowded flights and inconsistent rule following have spurred even stronger responses from airlines that are constantly improving. Southwest cleans planes in between flights in addition to six hours every night, while Delta is using a high-grade disinfectant on many common surfaces several times a day. United requires both passengers and employees to wear face coverings and is working to reduce contact. You can even check out the TSA's coronavirus webpage for information on cases at various airports, sanitation procedures, and more. Other suggestions include taking direct flights, asking to change seats if possible (window seat, please), and staying in your row to limit interaction with others.
Are Planes Still Flying Everywhere?
Many are wondering when they can reschedule their beach getaway, but if you're thinking you can just book a flight for right now, you have to also consider the situation in your destination. Many countries have issued travel bans, and many that haven't require a two-week isolation period upon arrival, meaning you would have to stay in that place and socially distance for 14 days. Check out the Department of State's travel advisory levels. If you're traveling outside of the United States, consider enrolling in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program, or STEP, designed to help US citizens traveling or living abroad. Travel insurance is another option that airlines are extending to be more flexible as well. But again, nonessential travel is not recommended right now.
Can I Fly Somewhere Within the US?
Domestic flights within the US are still happening, but since there's no guarantee that you'll be next to an unoccupied seat or flying with other healthy passengers, you should avoid flying right now unless it's absolutely necessary. Instead, take a virtual vacation (cuisine included) that will satisfy your wanderlust until the travel industry safely eases restrictions. Exercise caution and travel safely!