Pandemic air travel still complicated, but travelers shouldn’t shy away from the journey

Passengers are still required to wear their masks on planes unless "actively" eating or drinking.
Passengers are still required to wear their masks on planes unless "actively" eating or drinking. Photo credit Getty Images
By , KCBS Radio

Recent TSA checkpoint data shows that air travel numbers are bouncing back, reaching just below pre-pandemic levels. As more travelers throw caution to the wind and head for the skies, many are wondering how airlines are adjusting protocols to continue to keep passengers safe from COVID-19.

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But things really aren’t all that different now than they were from before the pandemic, except that travelers still need to keep their masks on.

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People really shouldn’t worry too much. "If what people are thinking it’s going to be – sit in your sit and don’t move – that kind of thing," they shouldn’t, said Brett Snyder, founder of air travel blog crankyflier.com on Thursday’s Ask an Expert with KCBS Radio’s Holly Quan and Dan Mitchinson.

Research has shown that airplanes aren’t really vectors for transmission, with the design and flow of air through the aircraft. Planes already use HEPA filters, said Snyder, filtering the air continuously.

Of course, it is more comfortable to fly when the number of cases is down. "But other than that it’s still not a huge concern," he said.

Masks have to stay on unless you are "actively" eating or drinking. Not everyone is a good sport about the rule, and there have recently been a spate of public incidents of irate or even violent passengers acting out on flights. Flight attendants have been receiving the brunt of the abuse.

More and more European countries changing their travel rules. Some are excluding Americans from visiting for nonessential reasons, others are requiring quarantining regardless of vaccination status, and some travelers are growing concerned that planned trips will be canceled altogether.

Travel insurance may or may not cover that possibility, Snyder said. "The one thing that’s good to keep in mind with air travel at least is that most airlines, most American airlines, have gotten rid of change fees."

So if a plan goes awry, travelers can use that credit towards another trip without incurring extra cost.

It can be hard to keep track of everything, especially since rules continue to change. "Ultimately, you just have to stay on top of these things," he said.

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