As more and more months go by without an end in sight to the pandemic, more and more people are rethinking how they adjust to living in this new normal, because it’s clear that “normal” isn’t coming back. But as people are getting comfortable with venturing outside of their houses more, we’re also wondering just how far can we go? Sure we can do a road trip, but what about a plane ride? Is it safe to fly during the COVID-19 pandemic ?

The answer to that isn’t SO straight forward. It’s really YES and NO.

Sorry that doesn’t give you a definitive and comforting answer that makes it ok to go ahead and book that super cheap flight to Tokyo you’ve been eyeballing. While we can’t give you a definitive answer on the topic, we can beak down the reasons why it’s both a yes and a no. From there YOU can decide how comfortable you are with the security and the risks. How’s that?

Things that make it safe to fly

  • According to the CDC, because of how air circulates and is filtered on airplanes, the risk of spreading germs is low. Commercial airlines are equipped with HEPA air filters which completely refresh the air during flight and filter 99.7% of airborne particles.
  • Enhanced COVID-19 travel policies implemented by airlines reduce the risk. Things such as taking temperatures prior to boarding, enforcing masks, handing out wipes to sanitize your seating area, all reduce the chances of spread.
  • Since airlines began implementing COVID-19 travel policies, there have been no reported or confirmed instances of the spread of the virus in-flight.
  • Passengers on a flight are pretty much stationary for the entire flight which reduces opportunities to spread. Unlike walking through a grocery story where people are constantly passing you or coming near you.
  • Respiratory droplets have been said to be the most risky when people are yelling, singing or talking loudly. Since people don’t typically talk, yell, or sing, or communicate in such a way that would cause projectile respiratory droplets on planes, the risk is lower.
  • Many airlines have dropped their changes fees which encourages people who are ill or have been knowingly exposed to adjust their travel plans without financial penalty. Here’s a list of cancellation policies by airline.
  • Less people are flying right now. Chances are that you may have an empty or partially empty flight. Less people equals less risk.

Things that make it unsafe to fly

  • Depending on your mode of transportation to/from the airport, you may be putting yourself at risk. Especially if you’re taking public transportation.
  • You may be exposed to a lot of people while at the airport. Walking through the airport, getting checked in, going through security, waiting at the gate, and boarding are all opportunities to be exposed to others. This makes it risky but not more risky than going to the grocery store. Making sure you use hand sanitizer, wear a mask, and maintain a 6 ft distance will help reduce the risk.
  • While people are stationary and likely not singing, yelling, or talking loudly, they are stationary and may cough or sneeze during your flight. Coughing does result in projectile respiratory droplets which increases the risk of spreading. As stated earlier, the HEPA air filters are designed to capture those particles.
  • While early in the pandemic, almost every airline was taking major precautions to reduce the risk, many airlines have relaxed their policies. Some airlines are not leaving the middle row empty and are packing flights. Some airlines are no longer sanitizing seat belts or trays or doing deep cleans between flights. You can reduce your risk by choosing airlines that are taking the level of precaution you feel comfortable with and by wiping down your own seat and area with disinfectant wipes as well.

See, we told you the answer to “is it safe to fly during COVID” was not a straight forward answer. So what should you do? Should you fly? There are so many things to consider when deciding whether or not it’s safe to fly right now. If you do choose to fly, we hope that you choose to be as safe and responsible as possible.

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