How To Avoid Coronavirus When You Fly

Submitted by News Desk on

With the number of cases of the coronavirus (COVID-19) now passing 100,000 worldwide, including 99 cases in the U.S., here are the best tips you can do to protect yourself when flying on an airplane.

What to pack?  Bring a small portable sanitizing wipe bag with you, along with hand sanitizer.  You can leave the face mask at home says Paul Pottinger, infectious disease specialist at UW Medicine, the health-care system at the University of Washington in Seattle.  Studies have shown the face mask is not effect at keeping you safe from getting COVID-19 because people still fidget with their masks repeatedly and touch their face.  The most common manner in which germs are spread is touching your face with hands that picked up the germ from an infected surface.

When you get to the airport, you might use a kiosk to print your boarding pass and check your luggage.  Here’s your options.  You can wipe the screen down first with your sanitizing wipes or just use it and use hand sanitizer immediately afterwards keeping in mind that you should wash your hands as soon as possible even though you used hand sanitizer.  

When you arrive at the TSA security checkpoint.  This area is ripe with possibilities for spreading germs and diseases.  This gray or white bin that you put your items in to be sent through the screening machine, they are a veritable playground of germs since everyone touches them and they are seldom cleaned.  You should put as many items that you can into your carry-on bag to avoid having to touch and use those trays.  Also, don’t go barefoot through the screening area, wear socks or bring socks if you’re wearing sandals with no socks.  Set your shoes and carry-on bags directly into the belt, don’t use the trays.  If you find you must use a tray, use hand sanitizer immediately and then proceed to a bathroom as soon as you’re through security so you can wash your hands.

You might be tempted to stop for something to eat or buy some snacks at a shop along the way to your gate.  If possible, don’t.  If you must, practice the same principles above, avoid touching things, and if you must, hand sanitize and wash your hands when you can.  More retailers offer wireless payments like Apple pay or Google Pay and those are great ways to pay without physically touch card machines and surfaces around it.

Arriving at the gate and boarding the plane.  If you need to see a gate agent, don’t touch the podium at the gate, it is seldom cleaned.  While boarding avoid grabbing the handrails on the jet bridge.  Once seated, grab your sanitizing wipes and clean the seat buckles, tray table (tray tables and arm rests are some of the dirtiest places on an airplane), arm rests and if you’re at a window seat, the handle to the window shade.  Leave the air blowing on you, even if you’re cold.  Air blowing out of the air vents is actually highly filtered air brought in from the outside and contains very few particulates or germs.  The blowing air will act as a miniature bubble around you in which local cabin air won’t reach you since it will be blown off and deflected by the air blowing on you from the airplane’s air vent.

These basic tips in cleanliness should dramatically reduce your chance of becoming infected with COVID-19 by nearly 95% says Pottinger.  It's important to keep COVID-19 in perspective he added, saying, "the flu has killed more people this year in the United States than the Coronavirus has killed worldwide up to today."

Airlines such as American, Alaska and United have put out statements stating that each night they will do a deeper clean than they normally do and are using stronger CDC approved chemicals.