Ready for Takeoff?

Even with Covid-19 cases on the rise in 26 states as of June 22, most of the country is in the midst of attempting to get back to normal life. That includes airlines and cruise lines, which were devastated by stay-at-home lockdowns through the spring. 

But even though you can finally leave home and travel once again – do you really want to?

Concerns about travel have abated to some extent as the country gets back on its feet economically, but crowds have not exactly flocked to the airport, or packed up for ocean and river cruises. Uncertain schedules, change fees and refund policies – what happens to my paid-for reservation if the “second wave” of the corona virus appears later this year? – have made many travel-shy. And fears about travel safety have taken their toll too.

While acting Department of Homeland Security  chief Chad Wolf emphatically told Face the Nation, “It’s safe to fly,” you may be thinking, “Not so fast” and wondering just when and how to get back out there.

Airlines, whose business cratered during the pandemic, have taken reopening seriously, working with government agencies like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to implement stringent safety measures. 

All airlines require that you don a face covering before boarding your plane and leave it on during the flight except for when you are eating and drinking. Speaking of which, don’t expect tasty snacks and beverages to be served on the plane – you are allowed to bring your own, but onboard food is limited or non-existent. Passenger numbers are limited to increase social distancing, and middle seats will remain empty, for a while at least. Worried about the air on board? Airline cabin air systems have HEPA filters, which eliminate more than 99% of air particles, including viruses. And airlines are doing deep cleaning of planes between flights.

On the ground, normal Covid-19 safety precautions apply: wash your hands or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, wear your mask in the airport, keep your distance from others. Please don’t travel if you feel ill, are running a fever or have been exposed to someone with the coronavirus in the past two weeks.

Feel like an ocean voyage? Think far ahead. Keep in mind that cruise ships were at the forefront of the heaviest part of the Covid-19 outbreak. Their early problems were not surprising, given that jamming thousands of people into tight public spaces provides near-perfect conditions for disease spread. 

On March 15, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) put a No Sail order into effect for cruise ship operations in waters subject to US jurisdiction.

The order will be in effect until at least July 24, or until certain health and safety guidelines are met by cruise lines. Cruise lines and travel agents are taking reservations for some cruises late this summer, though most won’t be available until the fall of 2020 or later. 

 “Many cruise lines have published social media posts or videos reiterating their commitment to maintaining safe, clean environments,” the Palm Beach Post noted, “But they have yet to announce policies specifically related to how they plan to deal with the threat of coronavirus.

So, you’ll need to determine your own comfort level. Do your homework, research the cruise lines and ports that interest you, check out their safety precautions, be sure of a line’s refund policies (they can be brutal) and don’t be afraid to ask questions before you decide.

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