Traveling after the Pandemic - The New Norms
What you need to know if you fly in 2020.
Spring 2020, who knew it would be the start to such a strange year. Finally we are able to see movement again in the air and on the ground. The air travel industry has done a spectacular job in rising to the challenges the coronavirus presented them and because of their commitment to safety and excellence, people's confidence in the airlines have only increased.
As the country is slowly opening back up and people are starting to make plans to travel again, there are some new norms and regulations to keep in mind during this time. While there is not a way to completely eliminate the risks, there are ways to limit the risks and make it safer for everyone. Since the world's current situation relies on a wait-and-see-how-long-this-will-take approach, the new regulations listed below are true for now, but hopefully not for long, just as long as it takes. Nevertheless, we want you to be prepared and knowledgeable about what to expect, so let's get right to it!
What you need to know when making travel plans for 2020:
- Let's talk about the obvious first - be aware and take caution when deciding on your location. I know this sounds obvious, but it’s not only where you are going, but where you are coming from. For instance, if you are traveling from New York to Florida, understand and prepare yourself that New York has more cases and therefore, to take all the precautions possible beforehand. If you really wish to go to a place that has been hit hard by COVID-19, like New York City, please consider moving your trip back a year - as the 'New York' you want to visit is also not ready for you.
- If you are flying somewhere, plan and prepare to quarantine yourself for 14 days before your flight. Passengers are advised to take all precautions possible on the way to the airport by taking either their own car or certified taxi.
- For the time being, passengers will be asked to clarify if they are COVID-19 free. This can be done through a self-declaration. Those who have tested positive for COVID-19 in the last 60 days are not allowed to travel.
The self-declaration must follow these guidelines and certify that you:
- are not residing in a containment zone.
- are not suffering from fever, cough or anything respiratory related.
- are not under quarantine.
- will contact someone immediately if you develop any symptoms once beyond security.
- have not tested positive for COVID-19 in the last 60 days.
- can take on the new airport measures or norms.
- will give your contact details to the airline when and if required.
- understand that if you break any of these protocols or that if you are not eligible that you would be held liable for penal action.
- will continue to use all precautions and safety/health protocols while in the airport and airplane.
- Let's talk about your ID - If your license has expired after March 1, 2020, due to offices being closed to reissue those licenses, your expired license will still be accepted as a form of identification for domestic flights up to 1 year past its original expiration date, or 60 days after our COVID situation - whichever is longer.
Helpful tip: After October 1, 2021 if you plan to use your state-issued ID, be sure it is REAL ID compliant. Every air traveler (yes domestic air travel), above the age of 18 will need a REAL ID-compliant driver's license, state-issued driver's license or another acceptable form of ID to fly within the US. Other federal documents can be used instead of the REAL ID including a passport, passport card, U.S. Military ID, Enhanced ID or a Global Entry card. To obtain this new identification card, you need to present documents proving your age, identity, social security number and address. For more information about how to obtain a REAL ID, visit your local DMV.
- Your passport on the other hand will not be accepted internationally but will be accepted domestically if expired. The Department of Homeland Security said that they will accept expired passports as a form of identification until 1 year past its original expiration date.
Helpful tip: If you need to get a new passport, please be prepared for some serious delays. So, if you know that your passport is going to expire in the next months, Go ahead and send it in so that it can be put in line. The expedited service is also temporarily 'out of service'. For more information about obtaining a passport during this time go to travel.state.gov.
- Remember, airlines want to work with you. Each airline has changed their terms of service for the time being. As you are booking your flight, make sure to check out the airline's website directly on how they are handling cancellations and rebooking policies. A list of some of the major airlines can be found at the end of this article.
- In order to work with you better, many airlines are also waiving change fees if your trip is before September 30, 2020 (of course, please visit your airline carrier's webpage to see their new terms of service). If you are planning a trip after September 30, 2020, look into getting travel insurance that is "Cancel for Any Reason" (CFAR). As some 'trip cancellation' policies do not offer trip cancellation for government travel bans, airline cancellation or for pandemic reasons. While the CFAR is more expensive, it could be worth it during this time.
- Workers in the travel business are also highly advised to monitor their health and not come to work if they are feeling any of the symptoms of COVID-19. While at work, flight attendants must wear masks when within 6 feet of passengers. They are also taking all sanitary precautions.
How and what to pack for your trip in 2020:
- TSA is also allowing each person to carry up to 12 oz. of hand sanitizer in their carry-on. As it needs to be screened separately, pack your bottle in a clear Ziploc bag. All other liquids should stay within the 3.4 fluid oz. amount. Handwipes are also allowed.
- Some airlines, due to the fact that they have had to cut costs, have stopped offering pillows and blankets on airplanes. Therefore, when packing, we suggest bringing a blanket scarf or travel shawl with you if you tend to get cold on the plane, and a travel pillow for that extra level of comfort.
- While some airlines are still offering food, many aren't offering the same kinds of meals they were beforehand. This is mainly due to limit unnecessary contact; therefore, pack your own meal for the flight. We also recommend bringing your own reusable water bottle with you on the flight as the drink and beverage service has also been limited. Not only does this avoid touching more than necessary, it’s also more sustainable to use a reusable water bottle (green points!!). We recommend this cool collapsible water bottle, which is lightweight and easy to store when empty.
- Airlines have also been asked not to provide newspapers or magazines (extra touch points), so make sure you have your own form of entertainment while on the plane. We suggest bringing a power bank with you to make sure your phone/tablet/gaming device stays alive the whole flight, as well as after the flight! We personally love this power bank since it can charge your phone 3-4x before needing to re-charge the battery itself.
- Make sure your necessities are located in your carry-on, yes your carry-on! Luggage can still get misplaced while traveling from point-A to point-B. Therefore, make sure to pack your bags with an extra set of clothes, hand sanitizer/hand wipes, hand-lotion (all this hand-washing can really dry out your hands, especially on flights), as well as other items in which you will find yourself needing within the next 48 hours.
Helpful tip - make sure you have a luggage tag on your bag. I know this sounds like a no-brainer, but this helps tremendously if your bag is lost. Not only does it have your contact information on there (if you remembered to write it in), but it also gives you another way in which to identify your bag. For instance, if two bags were lost, which would be easier to locate? The black Samsonite suitcase with the generic airline contact tag or the black Samsonite suitcase with the mint green leather luggage tag with BON-VOYAGE written in gold-foil? Which one stands out to you more? (P.S. - if that sounded cute to you, you can find it here).
What you should know for your travel day in 2020:
We are all getting tired of being cooped up and staying inside, but traveling via airlines is not the time to let your guard down, instead, it's time to put on the mask and get serious about the precautions to ensure the safety of yourself and others. Even though airlines and airports are working together to do everything they can for your safety and others, it's up to us at the end of the day on how we handle these safety and health protocols.
- Passengers are advised to arrive to the airport at least 2 hours before departure. With all the new rules and regulations, processing times may be slowed down.
- New guidelines suggest ways in which the airlines must limit physical contact when possible. Therefore, to avoid any unnecessary physical contact, everyone is asked to check-in online.
- TSA employees have been asked to wear gloves now while on-duty, as their job requires them to touch multiple objects. However, if you would like, you may ask them to use a fresh pair of gloves.
- Facemasks will be mandatory for all passengers except very small children who cannot physically wear a mask. It is asked for you to bring your own, though some airlines will have masks at the airport if you forget. Some airlines, such as Lufthansa, Air Canada and Canadian Airlines, also accept scarves as a face covering.
- Some airlines, such as Air Canada and Frontier, have machines that will check a person's temperature. If the temperature is above 100.4 Fahrenheit, that person will not be allowed to board. However, there is a current debate on who should fund these screening processes - the government or the airlines. (Normally, screening process are conducted by government workers). So it is possible that this will take longer to implement.
- It is advised to continue the practice of social distancing while at the airport. Even though the guidelines also suggest that businesses, especially those dealing with travel, should make enhanced sanitation procedures, it is still safer to distance yourself from others.
- Once at the boarding gate, passengers will be asked to take and use a safety kit which includes a three-layered face mask, a face shield and a sanitizer which should be worn and used before boarding. This is highly due to the restricted air flow within the tunnel and on the aircraft.
For more information about how each airline is handling the current industry challenges, check out their page to see how their current services have altered, and what they are doing to keep you and their workers as safe as possible, in the air and on the ground.