Traveling this holiday season? Here are a few tips to keep you safe

National

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Like many things in 2020, travel has become a pain for millions of us who want or need to get away but don’t know how to do it safely. Public health officials say staying home is the best way to protect yourself from COVID-19. But if you must fly this holiday season, here are some tips to keep you safe.

Although it’s likely more people will stay put this year than what’s expected for a typical holiday season, if you do plan on flying during November and December, there’s always the possibility of a jam-packed flight.

“Knowing how the airlines operate — particularly this year where it’s been so terrible for them financially — our concern is that they’re going to be maximizing profits by parking aircrafts and not using as many crews. So flights could be fuller,” said Consumer Reports Aviation Advisor Bill McGee.

The CDC and airlines maintain that most viruses and other germs do not spread easily on flights because of how air circulates and is filtered on airplanes. But some remain concerned about the lack of social distancing and mask policies onboard airplanes.

And what about the airports?

“There are a lot of chokepoints, particularly in smaller and older airports, where social distancing becomes very difficult,” McGee said.

Some airports are responding to those challenges by implementing new technologies, like automatic electronic access points, also known as E-Gates. They help reduce points of human contact and ease congestion bottlenecks. Consumer Reports say there are even more ways to keep you and your family safe, and some of those start before you book.

Contact the airline and check if they guarantee empty middle seats, and 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 as Consumer Reports 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 a heavy cleaning,” McGee said.

If all of that still sounds too risky or too much of a hassle, perhaps avoid it altogether and opt for a virtual holiday celebration instead. As you make travel plans for the holidays, try to look for flexible bookings.

Try to avoid restrictive airfares that prohibit changes or non-refundable rates. And look for free cancellation or reserve now, pay later hotel bookings.

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