If you're thinking about taking a trip or your upcoming ILP semester, it's probably a question on your mind.
Prepping for any kind of trip always requires a bit of research, but there's an added element if you're planning on doing some traveling in the current pandemic. There's been a bit of conflicting information when the COVID-19 virus just hit early in 2020, but further research (and even some personal experience from current ILP volunteers!) can hopefully clear up some of the questions and concerns you may have.
Keep an eye on what things are like in each of our countries.
See the latest Covid-19 updates here
While policies will be different in every airport and every country, this post outlines a few things to know before hopping on a plane to your next adventure.
*Also note that policies are ever changing. Information in this post was up to date as of January 2021 at the time written, but always double-check before you go.
What Does Flying Look Like?
Flying is looking a little bit different these days. As the world is opening up again, there's always a question about what flying looks like while we're still in a pandemic. An October article by the Wall Street Journal compiled a few of these guidelines and requirements to help any prospective travelers know what to expect.
According to the article, "health authorities, including the CDC, maintain that the risk of infection on airplanes is low." Part of this is due to the air filtration found in the airplane cabin. The vast majority of commercial jetliners are equipped with High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters, similar to those used in the hospital operating room. These filter out 99.7% of all airborne microbes. Thanks to these filters, the air inside of the cabin is refreshed every two or three minutes.
Also good to know? The TSA has added regulations to know about, like how each passenger can allow up to 12-ounces of hand sanitizer for their flight in their carry-on luggage (a temporary exemption from the 3.4 oz rule carried in one quart-sized bag). You can read more about standard TSA regulations during the pandemic here.
There are also added safety measures and precautions that are outlined below which can help ease some concerns. Bloomberg published an article that details the effectiveness of a few measures taken by airlines if you're interested.
A Few Airline Precautions
The risk of contracting the virus (or any other illness) on an airplane is reduced by the cleaning methods — many airlines are letting passengers know that cabins are scrubbed and cleaned with anti-microbial disinfectants. Others are only traveling at capped capacity (half, or 2/3 full), blocking off the middle seat for those not traveling together, and other precautions that are there to help social distancing. Some airlines (like American) aren't capping capacity, but do allow passengers to switch to a less crowded flight if they prefer. There are also some passenger requirements to know about that add to these safety measures.
It's recommended that you research the airlines and airports you're flying to check you're comfortable with the measures taken to reduce the risk of infection while flying.
For example, you can check here for Delta's policies which outline the specifics like limiting the total number of passengers on board, Blocking middle seats on all aircraft in Main Cabin, Delta Comfort+, and Delta Premium Select. You can take a peek at what certain airlines are doing specifically for their passengers by doing a quick search for the airline you have in mind.
The San Jose Costa Rica airport is also broadcasting their safety measures and put out a helpful video for tourists to help them know what to expect upon arrival.
Know The Passenger Requirements
Many airlines are requiring employees and travelers wear a mask through the entire flight (and are heavily encouraged or required to wear a mask during the entire airport experience — checking in, going through security, waiting at the gate, boarding your flight, etc. A mask that covers your mouth and nose is required and has been proven to be quite effective.
Quite a few countries are requiring that passengers arrive with a Negative test which can also add another layer of peace of mind.
What You Can Do
While what airlines are doing helps add an extra layer of security, individual passengers can also take some precautions while flying. The CDC suggests making sure you wear a mask in all public places and to bring hand sanitizer with you (that's at least 60% alcohol). Wash your hands (or use hand sanitizer frequently) after any high-touch points. You may also want to pack up some disinfectant wipes to wipe down your seating area as an added peace of mind. The Mayo Clinic also has some suggestions to check out.
We've also heard feedback from a few ILP volunteers about their opinion of flying abroad which is also good to know about. @emmacatherine09 recently did a little Q+A on her Instagram account after arriving in Thailand to teach English full time with ILP's professional teaching program. She said "sanitizing EVERYTHING, washing my hands, not touching my face, not getting too close to anyone, and being as cautious and careful as I can be" were the extra precautions (in addition to wearing a mask) she took while traveling.