For most of the world, we’re fast approaching the one-year mark for dealing with COVID. As the world opens up, we’ve had to relearn a great many things about how to act with neighbors, friends and strangers alike. Gone are the warm handshake introductions, and the inviting hug of friends. Our expected behavior surrounding all things travel related has also been changed accordingly. With a little thought beforehand and more consideration for others, our transition can be as smooth as we hope our flight will be. Here are a few things you can do to keep yourself and other’s safe while being an airline passenger during Covid.
The prevailing symbol of 2020 is the main sticking point surrounding air travel and the cause of most issues between airline passengers during COVID. Everyone has their opinion on masks. Public transport of any kind is not the time or place to voice those opinions. Follow the rules and expectations that will be spelled out for you and repeated aloud ad nauseam by customer service agents, gate agents, operations staff, and onboard crew. Throughout your travels, remember to “cooperate and graduate”, so to speak.
Equally important in this discussion is the understanding that no one is being deputized by the fictional, Mask Police. Wearing a mask 100% of the time is impossible for long periods of travel. We eat, drink, and need the occasional mask-free breath. Please be patient and understanding with your fellow travelers should you see a mask down briefly. Give the individual a chance to do the right thing on their own. Should the moment drag on for a while, (perhaps due to the inflight movie being so entrancing), politely ask them to secure their mask. Nearly everyone will instantly realize their momentary distraction and re-mask accordingly. Should an individual be rude when faced with such a request, and refuse to follow the established rules, then, in a non-escalating manner, quietly seek the help of uniformed employees. PLEASE be cognizant of the awkward position a flight attendant finds themselves in when one grown-up demands they take action against another grown-up.
Side note from a personal experience regarding masks causing an issue, never grab an employee to get their attention. Aside from unexpectedly and forcibly, grabbing another human being impolite worldwide, it could get you in hot water onboard an aircraft. It’s a razor thin line when it comes to defining what is and isn’t “Assault”. Your best intentions to get someone to wear their mask could result in your being met by police on arrival.
Along with wearing masks, this is the other hallmark of our times. When in an airport, leave space in line between yourself and the people in front of you. The plane will not leave you standing at the gate, so there is no need to cram up against the person that will enter the plane one second before you do. You may find yourself in airports in different parts of the country where they have different mandates regarding COVID than where you live. If you are uncomfortable with anything anyone is doing (or not doing), there is no need to start an argument. Politely excuse yourself from the area and go find a quieter place while you wait for your flight. Airports are not the place to try and school someone on what they should be doing differently. It will only cause problems for you.
If you are traveling with children and find yourself with a longer layover. Find an area of the airport that is not busy and set up camp there until your next flight. You can wipe down the area and bring any food you purchase over in order to not be around a lot of other people while you wait. We all know kids like to run around, so might as well find a small area where they can and you don’t need to worry about having them social distance from others.
Once in the airplane we are seemingly faced with a conundrum, how do we social distance on a metal tube? The answer is no different than when outside the plane…by doing the best we can. The plane and its air conditioning WILL make up for our close proximity to one another.
Much has been made about the medical grade HEPA filtration, and unbelievable flow rate of new air being circulated within the cabin. All of those facts are true. They are one reason that flight attendants and pilots have a noticeably lower COVID infection rate than the general public. That said there are moments where our actions or inactions can cause issues. Boarding and deplaning the aircraft occur with the airplane’s wonderfully protective air conditioning OFF, this is when we need to be vigilant to provide our neighbors with plenty of distance (6 feet or 2 meters is the goal) to do what they need to do. It might take an extra minute or two to get on or off the aircraft to provide everyone with the appropriate distance, but its healthy and respectful.
The obvious issue is, “How do we social distance with middle seats occupied”? This is the puzzle that needs to be addressed. Simply put, you can’t. So, take steps to minimize the threat. Between the masks and the airplane system, you’ll be safe in spite of the lack of distance. Multiple studies, such as this one and this one have proven that. Courtesy and respect dictate we do our best to help out.
If your traveling with your family, book the row as opposed to two windows and aisles. Check online and with gate agents about the possibility of getting a more isolated seat. When given the option on where to sit, be mindful of where others are already seated, don’t grab a seat right next to someone when there are open seats in the back. No matter how good looking they may be.
All the other courtesies still apply, just as they did before COVID. But in the interest of being thorough, I’ll reiterate the big three here:
– The middle seat gets the armrest. No exceptions! The aisle and window already have an armrest, and frankly, they aren’t in the middle.
– Try not to recline during any meal service. Otherwise feel free to recline and don’t be angered by someone in front of you reclining as well. If you need more space, book accordingly by paying for premium seats.
– If you need some light when the overhead lights are off and the cabin is dark, DO NOT open the window and bathe the entire plane in blinding sunlight. Use the personal over your seat, just push the button with the lightbulb.
And lastly and most importantly, remember the Golden rule. Treat others as you would like to be treated. The easiest way to continue flying safely and smoothly is to follow the rules of your carrier and be mindful of your fellow travelers. Rather than just being a decent airline passenger during Covid, just be a decent human being in general.
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