Flying safely during COVID 19 – Tips from a Flight Attendant
As I’ve been working on a few international flights during the pandemic, I wanted to share some tips on how we can all make Air Travel as much of a safe experience as possible right now. Please be aware that my content is based on personal experience as a flight attendant and officials’ information pieces. Personally, I would recommend anyone that doesn’t need to travel right now to stay at home. Nevertheless, some people have to travel for work or because their families live in another country. I am not judging any travel intentions; I’m just here to give some advice if you need to travel for whatever reason. Please be mindful of others and respect the rules! Now let’s dive into some flying safely during Covid-19 tips:
(There is a little FAQ about the safety of air travel concerning Covid-19 at the end of this post. I’ve linked you some research and articles there, make sure to check those out!)
Tips for staying safe when flying during Covid-19
1. Pre-Flight preparations
Have a time buffer
Before we even think about what to pack and how to behave on a plane, we need to talk about the preparation. As you might have noticed, airlines aren’t working their regular schedules, so many connections aren’t existing right now. Weekly service from New York to Paris may only be departing three times a week those days. Now, what does that mean?
→ Check your connections and book the one that will leave you enough time if there are any delays or cancellations. Are you traveling to attend a wedding on a Friday? And there are flights on Tuesday and Thursday? Take the Tuesday one if you can. In case it gets canceled, you’ll still be able to get there in time by taking the next flight.
Dig into the airline rules
What’s their mask policy? Do they serve food? Do I need to bring any documents? These are all questions only your airline can answer. Every airline has different rules and procedures right now, so make sure you know what to expect. Some, for example, allow their passengers to fly with a community mask. Others require their guests to wear surgical or FFP2/KN95 masks.
If you need special assistance (e.g., wheelchair services), check if there are any changes to the usual procedures. Don’t be afraid to call and ask if you have any questions or if you’re unsure about the procedures.
Be prepared at the Entry
Entry procedures can take up some time right now, even though there are not as many passengers arriving as usual. There are so many forms and papers you need to bring and fill out. Some of the forms are constantly changing. How can you help the process?
Also, make sure to bring your test results (if required) in the language of your destination – or at least in English. Imagine me bringing a german form to US border control – that’s gonna take some time for them to find out what’s on it. We don’t want that. We want it smooth and easy.
Be aware of sudden changes
Regulations can change quickly nowadays, and you need to think about the consequences this might bring. Let me give you some examples:
Pack the right stuff
Hand luggage must-haves nowadays must be hand sanitizer, disinfection wipes, and spare masks.
Besides all the hygiene essentials, I’d also recommend packing some things to entertain yourself. Many airport shops are still closed down and it can get boring if you’re not spending as much time strolling through duty-free’s as usual. Plus, one or two books more in your luggage for sure don’t hurt if you’re all over sudden finding yourself in quarantine, right?
Some authorities and airports have restricted the carrying of hand luggage because it reduces waiting time at the security checkpoints and helps speed up the (de-)boarding process. Make sure to check your airline for specific regulations. They’re trying their best so we can all fly safely during the Covid-19 pandemic.
2. On board tips
Wear a fitting mask throughout the time
This is an obvious fact, but trust me, some do struggle with that a lot. IF you can’t wear your mask all the time, consider staying home. By buying your airline ticket, you’re accepting their terms and conditions. Those declare everyone being obliged to wear a mask at all times. If you don’t do that, the crew can offload you off your flight or fine you. Please take the rules seriously! Wearing a mask at all time is one of the most important things to stay safe when flying during Covid-19!
But hey, I know it can be unconformable, so here are some tips to make wearing the mask a little easier.
Bring your own food
Now, this has two specific reasons:
- Some airlines may not provide any service during the flight, and many restaurants or shops to buy food at the airport are still closed down (depending on your airport).
- It’s safer! Why? Because you don’t want to eat while others eat.
IF your airline is serving food, they will distribute it from the front to the back. Many airlines only provide you with boxes and cold food, so you don’t need to eat it right away. Some do the “regular” hot meal service. So what does that mean? As soon as the food reaches the passenger, everyone takes their mask off and starts eating. This obviously leads to what we try to avoid: many people in one compartment not wearing a mask simultaneously.
I’d recommend keeping your mask on and eat later when the service is finished. Then, your surrounding passengers will have their masks back on, and you can enjoy your food with a little more safety.
How to socially distance on an airplane
Well, this is probably the hardest thing. You might be lucky to find yourself on an empty plane and have plenty of space around you. But you might as well be on a fully booked flight.
Even though you don’t know what to expect until you board your plane, there are still some precautions you can take concerning your social distance onboard.
→ Try to book a seat in the rear of the plane. Why? Because…
… most airline’s seating systems “fill up” the plane from front to back. All the passengers that didn’t book a seat in advance will be assigned to their seats. Even though many airlines try to keep middle seats free, the system will start filling it up from the front. By choosing a seat in the back, you are more likely not to get anyone seated next to you if the plane isn’t fully booked. (please note that that may not always be the case, systems are getting overruled by gate agents, and other circumstances like aircraft changes can change seat maps completely)
… you can see the cabin during boarding – which means you can observe the cabin if there are any empty rows around you if someone is taking his seat next to you. Like this, you’ll know where you could switch to after boarding is completed.
… there are not too many people passing by during boarding and de-boarding. Less contact = More safety 🙂 I’d also go for the window seat to avoid other passengers passing by too close when they need to go to the lavatory.
→ Talk to the airline staff.
A friendly asked question never hurts. If there is some capacity, ask the ground staff if your flight is fully booked or if there’s someone seated next to you. You can also ask the cabin crew: explain that – if possible – you’d like to switch to a seat where no one is next to you. We sometimes already know before boarding if (and where) we have some open space and will be happy to help.
Please, be friendly when you ask and show some understanding. We can’t re-seat everyone and complaining about the other people on the plane isn’t the right thing to do. If you want to fly, you also need to know that someone might get seated next to you. We do try to spread passengers as distanced as possible, but it’s not always possible.
I hope you’re having a safe flight! Take care of yourself and the ones around you. Be kind to each other <3
As always, stay happy and healthy!
See you soon,