By: PATRICK CLARKE l FEBRUARY 18, 2021
The Friendly Skies Are Open
Air travel is slowly rebounding nearly one year after the COVID-19 pandemic was first declared, but demand remains suppressed, and passengers will notice plenty of changes when flying for the first time in the coronavirus era. Safety concerns and travel restrictions continue to limit where we can fly in the early part of 2021, but for those who feel comfortable traveling and plan to do so responsibly, the world is steadily reopening. Here are some important things to know before you board your next flight.
The Latest CDC Advice
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) currently recommends that Americans avoid travel at this time as COVID-19 continues to spread but advises those who are taking a trip to get tested one to three days prior to departure, wear a face mask and practice social distancing and frequent hand washing throughout their journey before getting tested again three to five days after their trip and self-isolating for a full seven days after travel even if they test negative.
Expect Enhanced Health and Safety Protocols
Airports and airlines have implemented elevated health and safety measures to protect both staff and passengers in the time of coronavirus, including frequent disinfection of highly-touched surfaces and highly-trafficked areas and face mask requirements. Many travelers have learned the hard way that these face mask policies are non-negotiable, with airlines banning thousands of passengers who've refused to comply. However, face masks have since been federally mandated on public transportation so violaters now face stiff fines in addition to other penalties.
Travelers will also notice an abundance of hand sanitizing stations as they walk through the airport and are encouraged to wash their hands or sanitize frequently, in addition to avoiding touching their face and maintaining at least six feet of distance from people outside of their travel group whenever possible. Airports and airlines have also rolled out more contact-less options over the past year so travelers can do things like check-in and access boarding passes and even order food from their smartphones. Don't be surprised to encounter temperature checks in some cases or to notice limited in-flight food and beverage service designed to reduce close interactions between passengers and crew.
Stay Updated on Local Travel Restrictions
The steps you'll need to take before your flight will depend on where you're going. Some states are requiring negative COVID-19 test results taken within a few days of travel, enforcing a mandatory quarantine on out-of-state visitors or asking them to complete a health questionnaire prior to travel.
Be sure to research your destination thoroughly so you not only know what to expect but know what's open and available when you arrive. If traveling abroad, your best bet is to stay at a resort where you can access a variety of amenities and dining experiences all in one place as well as testing ahead of your return trip home.
Returning To the US? You'll Need a Test
As of January 26, 2021, the CDC requires that all air travelers age two or older entering the U.S. provide proof of a negative COVID-19 antigen or PCR test result taken within three days of departure. However, many destinations and leading hotel and resort brands are offering quick and affordable—in some cases free—testing options that travelers can access on-site at their hotel or resort prior to check-out.
Online Tools Spell Out Restrictions
With travel restrictions constantly changing, airlines are making it easier for passengers to know exactly what to expect and what they'll need in order to fly to and enter their destination without issue with the help of interactive maps, travel guides and other online tools that breakdown any quarantine and or testing requirements as well as required travel forms and applications.