Consumer Reports: Air travel during the holidays

Consumer Reports

CONSUMER REPORTS — Public-health officials say that staying home is the best way to protect yourself from COVID-19. But if you must fly this holiday season, Consumer Reports has some tips to help keep you safe at 35,000 feet.

Although it’s likely more people will stay put this year than during a typical holiday season, if you do plan to fly in November or December, there’s always the possibility of a jam-packed flight.

The CDC and airlines maintain that most viruses and other germs don’t spread easily on flights because of how air circulates and is filtered on airplanes. But CR remains concerned about mask policies and the lack of social distancing on airplanes.

And what about the airports? There are a lot of congestion points, particularly in smaller and older airports, where social distancing becomes very difficult. Some airports are responding to that challenge by using new technology, such as automatic electronic access points. Also known as e-gates, they help reduce human contact and ease bottlenecks.

CR says there are even more ways to keep you and your family safe, and some of them start before you book a flight. Call the airline to see if it guarantees empty middle seats, and ask how strictly it enforces mask-wearing. Then check again right before you fly in case a change has been made.

Also see if you can book a flight for earlier in the day, because CR says that’s when airplanes are the cleanest. If you’re on a 6:30 a.m. flight, you’re probably going to get on a plane that just received heavy cleaning.

CR says that if you are making travel plans for the holidays, try to look for flexible bookings in case you have to make a last-minute cancellation. Try to avoid restrictive airfares that prohibit changes or are nonrefundable, and look for “free cancellation” or “reserve now, pay later” on hotel bookings.

If all of that still sounds too risky, or too much of a hassle, consider avoid traveling altogether and opt for a virtual holiday celebration instead.


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