With Summer in its infancy, millions of us are considering ending lockdown by hitting up major US airports and heading out of town. It may be that you’re missing friends and family from out of state, are just getting back to business travel after quarantine or, if you’re lucky, finding time to jet off to the sunshine and new surrounds of a foreign country for a well-deserved, relaxing vacation. If you’re on the move, what are the new airline rules you have to follow?
Regardless of the reasons for your planned trip, it’s likely you’re feeling a wee bit nervous about venturing overseas or across the country due to recent events. We’ve pulled together a handy guide to keep you to date with new airline rules and advice to make sure your trip is as safe as possible. This is what you need to know if you’re traveling to or from a US airport during Covid19.
New airline rules state that Instead of handing your airline ticket to a TSA agent at security, passengers will be responsible for scanning their own documents. A large percentage of flyers do this already, so it’s not a complete overhaul of the system. It’s merely an extension of the way we were already being encouraged to use the latest technology in place in major airports in the US. The change here will be the introduction of far more machines to take into account the increased numbers of people following self-check-in procedures.
When showing your ID documents or cards to staff before you board airplanes, these will simply be held up to them to allow for inspection. The new airline rules state there will be no handover.
Most of the existing procedures put in place after 9/11 have been maintained for safety reasons, but now that new airline rules include Covid19, there are some extra points to take into account. As well as liquids in clear plastic bags to pass through security, you should also remove any food you’re carrying and place this in a plastic bag. This is to save security from having to remove this if there are any issues.
In addition, all electronic items, such as cell phones and tablets, should be placed in a clear plastic bag and kept together in your carry-on cut down on the number of times these need to be touched by security. Both guidelines are designed to keep passengers and airport staff safe from potential Covid19 transmission during travel.
At the present time, new airline rules state that each passenger is also permitted to carry one 12 ounce bottle of hand sanitizer in their carry-on luggage.
Social distancing at major airports in the US is a contentious issue, for obvious reasons. Depending on the airport in question (we’ll go into some of the major hubs later in the article), guidelines are quite different and signage, hand sanitizer, and mask rules vary considerably.
In the airport concourses, many non-essential stores remain closed. Those that have reopened also have varying restrictions, depending on the rules put in place by the parent companies or airport management.
In terms of new airline rules (and those for the airport), social distancing is suggested wherever possible, but it is understood that, in a busy airport, this cannot always be maintained to 6ft. Signage is prevalent through terminals across the US, and many have helpful measurements in place to keep you a safe distance from the passenger in front and behind you. However, getting through the airport is one thing, sitting on a flight for hours on end is something else entirely. If your flight is half empty, you will be directed to maintain a safe distance from other passengers and flight staff will be there to assist you and give direction on any new airline rules you must comply with.
If your flight is full, there is little chance for social distancing, and this has to be taken into account when booking your flight. The simple fact is that you probably won’t know until you board. This is a risk you must choose to take, and masks are already mandatory for many passengers on planes in terms of new airline rules. This also applies to many foreign carriers who travel through, or are based in, American cities. Mask wearing can be enforced by airport staff.
Do I have to wear a mask at the airport?
This depends entirely on which airport you’re traveling from and which one you’ll be arriving in. There is no hard and fast rule across the board, so each airport is taking responsibility for its own policy, here. Although it’s certainly recommended in some, others make no mention of it at all.
Policy and procedures also vary enormously, depending on which state you’re in. However, in saying that, if you arrive at an airport that does suggest wearing a travel mask during your stay, it’s highly likely you’ll be able to grab one without any problem. New airline rules mean that most airports have a supply of travel masks for distribution to their passengers, and you’ll certainly see the majority of staff wearing them in main locations.
To be on the safe side, carry a comfortable travel mask with you; one that you won’t irritate you after a half-hour, as you may end up wearing it for an extended period of time. If you book a trip a few weeks in advance when your area has falling numbers of cases, you might think you don’t need to take extra precautions, but if Covid19 has taught us anything, it’s that numbers can rise overnight and reduced deaths and infection rates are only good on the day they’re declared. This means that new airline rules are constantly being adapted to the current situation.
Recent spikes have already been recorded in numerous cities and states throughout the US, where previously people and businesses were getting back to normal.
Each airline will follow advice, but the measures are, at the end of the day, up to the carrier to devise and pass down. This means that, although there is no federal law to enforce the wearing of travel masks, if the new airline rules for your carrier state mask-wearing is now a requirement ,you can be refused boarding for now following the new regulations for flying. In fact, several instances of this have already been reported in the media.
There are various exemptions in place, however, to take into account people who genuinely cannot wear masks on flights or around the airport. These are:
Passengers with a cognitive or physical disability that makes it impossible for them to safely adopt a travel mask.
Do I need a temperature check?
Although several airlines have stated they will be conducting pre-flight temperature checks on both passengers and flight crews, this is by no means a blanket policy in terms of new airline rules. Around 12 airports across the US have been trialing temperature checks, and it’s possible that this will be rolled out across major airports in the US in the future.
It has been raised that temperature checks at security may not be that effective, though. In addition, just because you have a high temperature doesn’t necessarily mean you have or are carrying Covid19. It could simply be the case that you’re coming down with a fever.
Airlines and the TSA are going to have to have a pretty robust system in place before they can deny a passenger entry to their flight based on such a check. We also know there are many people for whom having Covid19 comes with no raised temperature or other associated symptoms.
What it looks like on the ground (and in the air…)
Although the major hubs with higher passenger numbers and higher numbers of connections from abroad have some of the strictest Covid19 airport safety measures, they also have some of the greatest chances of increased infection rates.
At the time of writing, these are the major airports in the US with the highest level of infection rates among TSA staff. Passenger numbers are not known.
|Airport||Total Cases||Last Confirmed Case|
|Logan International, Boston||26||6/23/2020|
|Newark/Liberty, New York||65||6/18/2020|
|Fort Lauderdale, Florida||30||6/23/2020|
|George Bush Int, Houston||25||9/29/2020|
|LAX, Los Angeles||34||6/28/2020|
|Orlando Int, Florida||27||6/23/2020|
|Miami Int, Florida||37||6/24/2020|
At present, all TSA staff (and many others) must wear masks and gloves to help protect themselves and passengers. So, although traveling from a large hub may be cheaper or more convenient, also check out smaller, regional airports if you have concerns about infection transmission rates at international airports.
Checking new airline rules for the US is easier if you’re flying domestic. If you are flying overseas, mask up, take your sanitizer, and obey all directional and social distancing signage at your terminal and beyond.
Current US Hotspots
In terms of Covid19 spikes, several have been seen over the past few weeks, causing many cities and regions to enforce stricter lockdown rules again. These are:
- Florida (particularly in and around Miami)
- North Carolina
Travel into and out of the states may be restricted, so always check the new airline rules and ensure you know the state of affairs on the ground for the destination you have in mind. Being able to touch down is all very well, but if beaches, hotels, and restaurants are closed, and Covid19 cases are rising, it may not be the safest time to travel.
Although the situation is ever-changing and new airline rules are being shaped to react to decreases and surges in cases, doing your research before you head off on a trip will give you the best chance of keeping yourself and your family safe while traveling during the Covid19 pandemic.
Frequently Asked Questions
If I have a medical condition that means I can’t wear a mask, can I still travel with the new airline rules? Yes, but it’s advisable to supply evidence of this before you fly. If you do not contact your carrier and discuss this with them, you may not be permitted to board. If you have a genuine medical reason, this won’t be difficult to prove.
Do I have to wear a face mask for travel at all times? New airline rules mean It’s quite possible you will be required to wear a travel mask during your time at the airport and for the duration of your flight, depending on where you’re traveling from and the rules from your individual carrier. Check these before you go (or before you book). This isn’t just for your own safety, but for the safety of those around you, and it can be enforced by aircraft staff.
Also read – 10 Best Family Vacation Spots in the US