By Caleb Lunetta
Signal Senior Staff Writer
For some, the notion of traveling — especially on airplanes flying at a usual altitude — has always been a scary proposition.
Full-year global passenger traffic results for 2020 dropped by 65.9% compared to 2019, making last year the sharpest traffic decline in aviation history, according to a report by the International Air Transport Association.
“As the coronavirus began its global spread, the air industry came to a virtual standstill by the end of March,” read a report released by United Nations officials in January. “Following widespread national lockdowns, by April, the overall number of passengers had fallen 92% from 2019 levels, an average of the 98% dropoff seen in international traffic and 87% fall in domestic air travel.”
Although travel slightly recovered in the later part of 2020, the widespread availability of the various vaccines across the world ushered in the next phase of travel COVID-19 pandemic.
Rules remain stringent, according to SCV travel experts, and those rules remain in place to keep you, and all others safe, during your shared journeys.
By the numbers
The number of people that head through all airport checkpoints in the United States has been steadily increasing throughout 2021, according to publicly available from on the Transportation Security Administration’s website.
For instance, on Sept. 19 of this year, approximately 2,075,000 travelers went through TSA checkpoints during a 24-hour time frame, but only 848,000 went through on Sept. 19, 2020. The latest figures show a gradual return to pre pandemic levels, because on the same day in 2019, TSA saw 2,517,000 travelers headed through U.S. airport security.
Even when comparing the growth in the number of travelers just this year, a gradual return to normalcy is apparent. In the early part of the year, such as January, the daily average number of travelers hovered in the six-figure range; whereas late summer and early fall averages show a daily rate in the seven-figure range.
“Almost overnight, we went from hardly booking anything at all to just ‘BAM!’” said Monica Vibe, a travel agent at Travel Leaders Executive in Stevenson Ranch. “People are definitely traveling and are definitely looking for next year if they’re not quite ready to go now.”
The latest protocols, even in view of local medical experts, can be confusing at times. But two good rules to follow, according to Dr. Jordan Michelena, a family medicine physician at Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital urgent care, are to protect yourself and use common sense.
“So, if you’re out by yourself, going for a walk in a park or something, then feel free, you don’t need to wear a mask,” said Michelena in an interview posted to Henry Mayo’s community outreach webpage. “If you’re not around somebody who looks sick or has COVID or has COVID-like symptoms and you’re out in the open, we know that the infectivity rate is low at that point.”
“But if you’re going to be in a crowded room with other people, you don’t know whether they’re vaccinated, they don’t know if you’re vaccinated, then at that point, you would want to wear a mask,” Michelena added.
Michelena reminded people that the first step to making sure you’re safe while traveling is to get vaccinated.
“We know vaccines work from extensive decades of vaccination with measles, mumps, the flu, COVID now,” said Michelena. “We know that they do work. And so that would be step number one … I encourage everyone to get it who is eligible and who’s within the age groups. And we know that kids are not eligible to get them. So we want to be extra careful about protecting them, right? So getting vaccinated would be number one.”
The second and third steps would be to wear your mask and wash your hands, Michelena said.
“You want to wash your hands,” said Michelena. “And, if you’re vaccinated, you’re a little bit safer with this, but wash your hands with contact with things that you think may be COVID-related, especially if you’re around people that look sick or something along those lines.”
Michelena said that when traveling, even when in airports, it is important for people to realize they need to keep their distance as best they can.
“If you’re having to travel on the plane, this makes it more difficult, but try to keep your distance at the airports,” said Michelena. “Try to arrive in a timely manner, but don’t show up too early to where you would be unnecessarily exposing yourself.”
Vibe agreed that the first tip she would give is to be vaccinated, but also advised that if you plan to travel internationally, and you’re not going to be using a travel agent, that its important you understand all travel restrictions.
“Every state is a little different on their mask mandates but international is where we really see a huge difference in travel,” said Vibe. “And I think sometimes what’s hard for people to understand, they can go online and book an airline ticket to a country that’s not even open.”
Vibe said that if one is not prepared to adapt to quick changes, or has a solid understanding of the health requirements before departing, that it could result in you being stuck in a country or missing your chance to take a trip.
As for vaccine cards, domestic travel in airports do not really require passengers to have them at all times, Vibe said, however when you land and head to restaurants or events, they might be required depending on the state. But if you’re heading internationally, you will definitely need your vaccine card, and some countries may even require you to download it.
“There’s a lot of different variables out there right now, and you have to be aware that anything can change at any moment,” said Vibe. “So, what is allowed today may not be allowed in two months.”