This holiday season will look a little different for many due to the pandemic. Some may host their annual get-togethers over Zoom, while others might opt for air travel.
If your plans require boarding a plane, consider taking a couple of steps to keep you and those around you safe.
For one, fewer flights are expected in the coming months as airlines have had to “shave off capacity to around 50%” when compared to 2019 figures, according to a September schedule and traffic report from airline analysis firm Official Aviation Guide. Forward bookings and schedules data showed that an estimated 37,700 had booked for November, a drop of 78% from that of last year for the same month.
Companies such as American Airlines announced a reduction of 86,000 flights for October, and Southwest Airlines reported a cut of 38,000 set for November and 55,000 for December.
With remaining flights becoming potentially more in demand, health experts are recommending to consider traveling by car or staying home.
“Travel increases your chance of getting and spreading COVID-19. Staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others from COVID-19,” read the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.
Consider the risks
With COVID-19 developments still ongoing and a vaccine yet to be developed, health experts are asking the public to consider travel risks in planning holiday activities this year.
Are you or those that will travel with you at a higher risk of getting sick from coronavirus? How about those you will be visiting or members of your household upon your return?
These are questions the CDC recommends one should ask before traveling.
“If you get infected while traveling, you can spread the virus to loved ones when you return, even if you don’t have symptoms,” reads the center’s protocols on traveling. “Anyone can get very ill from the virus that causes COVID-19, but older adults and people of any age with certain underlying medical conditions are at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19.”
In a five-level chart, the CDC has categorized travel activities, from transportation to food and lodging from the lowest risk to high risk. Flights with layovers, traveling on a cruise ship, eating inside a restaurant with little physical distancing and staying at shared spaces with multiple people outside one’s household — such as a hostel or shared hotel rooms — are considered among the most at-risk activities. Lower-risk alternatives include short trips by cars with household members only and staying at vacation rentals with those from your home unit.
Research your destination
COVID-19 guidelines per county, let alone at every state and country. Be sure to check out state, territorial, tribal and local public health websites for updated requirements, which can range from lesser or more restrictive dining protocols to requirements for recent travelers to stay home for up to 14 days.
Say, for example, you are traveling to a different part of California, state Public Health officials recommend to frequently check local rules, as counties are changing between tiers in California’s four-tiered reopening blueprint and as firefighters continue to battle ongoing wildfires.
“Know that local rules are constantly changing and may change even after you start your trip,” reads the state’s coronavirus website.
Whether you’re traveling across the state or hosting family, visitcalifornia.com offers current travel alerts and a collection of local and regional tourism offices with pandemic-related updates to learn about or share with others.
The site includes “travel sites that provide general travel information, as well as specially built COVID-19 update pages that offer (information) on hotels and restaurants, as well as event cancellations, transportation schedule changes (and) attraction openings.”
For international travel, which could require mandatory testing or quarantine, visit the destination’s Offices of Foreign Affairs or Ministry of Health, and the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs, Country Information site at travel.state.gov.
Booking a flight
When booking a flight, look into several measures that will help keep you and those around you safe, such as booking an earlier flight where fewer people are expected to gather at security lines and airport terminals and check out airlines’ seat blocking policies.
Here are three to consider:
- Alaska Airlines: Applicable through Nov. 30
- Southwest Airlines: Applicable through Nov. 30
- Delta Airlines: Applicable through Jan. 6, 2021
Before arriving at the airport, the Transportation Security Administration recommends learning about the protective measures for the screening process. Guidelines include that travelers practice six feet of distance, wear face coverings and be aware that they may have to adjust or remove their masks for ID verification, and travelers will be allowed one liquid hand sanitizer container of up to 12 ounces in carry-on bags.
For more information, visit tea.gov/coronavirus.