Posted by Sandy LaMott | CNN
If you take to the skies to visit friends and family during the holidays, get ready to fight your way through crowded airports, crowded planes and crazy baggage lines with millions of fellow travelers.
“Everyone knows how close they are going to be with other people on the plane,” said Sarah Nelson, president of the Flight Attendants Association, the union representing flight attendants in the United States. “But they may not take into account how crowded these airports will be. There is no place. There is no way to distance yourself from society. “
According to the American Automobile Association, about 4.2 million people will fly in for Thanksgiving, nearly double the number last year.
The good news this year is that many passengers will be vaccinated against the novel coronavirus, including almost all foreign travelers entering the United States.
The bad news is that many Americans will still not be fully vaccinated by Thanksgiving, including children under 12 and those who, for whatever reason, choose not to get vaccinated.
RELATED: Are Bay Area Airports Ready for Thanksgiving Travel?
Nelson, a United Airlines flight attendant since 1996, said many people could also be newcomers to the strict federal mask mandate introduced in February.
“People need to understand that there is a federal policy on masks,” she said. “It all starts at the airport door and continues throughout the entire process until you leave the airport at your destination.”
Here are eight tips to help keep yourself and your family safe and reduce stress while flying this holiday season.
1) Vaccinate your child over 5 years of age and get a booster shot.
Children in the US aged 5 and older are now eligible for the Covid-19 vaccine, but like adults, it is only fully protected two weeks after the second dose. Since there was not enough time between the release of the vaccine and Thanksgiving for the children of this young age group to receive a second vaccination, none of them will be fully vaccinated when traveling on Thanksgiving.
“Parents should treat partially vaccinated children as if they had not been vaccinated,” said CNN medical analyst Dr. Leana Ven, an emergency physician and professor of health policy and management at the Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University.
According to Wen Jiabao, parents and children should continue to use masks and social distancing while traveling and consider taking a rapid Covid test before gathering with family.
“If you are an adult who has not yet gotten boosted after being fully vaccinated earlier this year, do so now,” she added.
“We know that immunity to symptomatic infection diminishes over time, so I strongly recommend that anyone eligible for a booster vaccine get vaccinated at least two weeks before reuniting with their family for the holidays,” Wen said.
2) Fly outside office hours and on less busy days.
“If you can travel to and from your destination on less busy days en route, you and your family will meet fewer people and be more successful at social distancing,” said Lincy Marr, professor of civil and environmental engineering at the Institute of Technology. Virginia. leading specialist in aerosol transmission of viruses.
“This is especially important if you have children under the age of two who cannot wear a mask,” Marr said. “You can also try to book flights outside office hours, later in the evening, or very early in the morning to avoid crowds.”
Since few people have more than a few Thanksgiving days off, travel usually peaks on the day before Thanksgiving, which is November 24 this year, and Sunday, November 28. The holiday itself, November 25 this year, is often less busy. …
3) Book your window seats
Experts suggest booking window seats for unvaccinated children (or adults), in part due to vents on the interior panels of most aircraft.
“We think the seat with the least risk is the window seat because the air circulation pattern may be better for the window seat,” Marr said.
“This is where fresh air is pumped in, so most of the airflow goes through the window,” Nelson said.
Another added benefit: “People don’t pass you in the aisle,” Marr said.
4) Wear well-fitting high quality filter masks.
Invest in a high-quality travel mask that, when properly placed on your face, traps about 95% of virus-sized particles, experts say.
“I would definitely recommend that travelers, including children, wear high quality masks – ideally N95, KN95 or KF94,” Wen said. “And there are a variety of sizes for these high quality types of masks, so you can find the one that suits you best.”
Form is important, as is comfort, according to Marr. “Look for a mask that fits every unique face and is comfortable enough for you or your child to wear for hours,” Marr said.
“If you breathe out and feel that air is leaking past your eyes or leaking out of the sides, you will know that this is not suitable,” Marr said, adding that it is better to shop early, “because you will have to try many different masks. to see what works best for you. “
5) come early
Don’t expect a breeze through the airport. During baggage drop-off and security checks, it takes more social distancing time – if at all possible. And the opening of US borders to foreign travelers, while good news for the US economy, could mean even more delays.
“This is really good news, and only vaccinated people can travel to the United States. However, this influx brings travelers more paperwork to verify, which could indeed slow down the process even further, ”Nelson said.
“Plan to arrive an hour earlier than usual so that you have enough time to avoid the stress of not being able to go through the entire process and not be on time for your flight.”
6) be prepared for safety
Experienced travelers know how to minimize the time they spend in security. This includes no small change, no belts, and no drawstring shoes. Experienced travelers take off their watches and store coats or jackets in advance – and prepare a laptop and carry-on luggage with toiletries that can be pulled out and put in trash cans.
But even seasoned travelers seem to have forgotten how to fly on this long and dry journey, Nelson said: “I see people who used to travel a lot and now return for the first time in a long time, and each person’s bag has been put aside. because there was something forbidden in them, like a bottle of water.
“As if everyone just forgot how to travel! So it creates more chaos, ”she said.
Each airline has links to their website’s prohibited items list, Nelson added, “and it would be nice to review them before packing.”
7) delay eating
Because federal regulations require masks to be worn at all times except for eating or drinking “for short periods,” Nelson recommends replacing the mask whenever you interrupt meals.
“If you actively eat, bite by bite, we are not going to say that you have to lower and raise the mask every time,” said Nelson. “But if you bite off a sandwich, put it down, look at your phone, take a moment, the idea is that you lift the mask while you chew until you’re ready to bite off the next bite. … “
“You can also protect yourself by eating when everyone is wearing masks,” Marr suggested.
“When they come and serve drinks and snacks, I take them, but I don’t eat them right away, because then everyone else takes off their masks,” she said. “I wait to eat until people finish their meal and put on masks.”
8) stay where you are if you can
As you get up and move, you get closer to other people on the plane who may or may not be vaccinated or follow mask directions. While the risk of Covid-19 from such exposure may be small, there are other concerns.
In 2021, there were many incidents of unruly passengers in the air travel industry, including the recent case where a flight attendant was punched in the nose. While not all of these fights were about masks, Nelson said there were quite a few.
“The risk may not be unique to Covid,” Nelson said. “It can be a real fight and you can get hit by someone who is fussing.”
Flight attendants suggest staying in place in the event of such an incident.
“We are taught to de-escalate, as well as how to direct other people to help,” she said. “Therefore, unless there is an imminent threat of injury, we really advise passengers not to take any action on their own because they could inadvertently make the situation worse.”
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