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Advice from an Airline Pilot About Flying Safely in 2020 | Frommer's Pauline Frommer

Advice from an Airline Pilot About Flying Safely in 2020

Like me, my friend Andrea Eldridge, a pilot with a major airline, has been barraged by questions from family and friends about the wisdom of flying right now. In response, she posted a pithy list of tips on Facebook and gave me permission to reprint the list here at

I think her tips are sensible and based on direct experience. Since she didn't write them for widespread publication, I've added some notes to what she wrote, plus a few tips of my own in italics following her words of wisdom.

She began her post this way: "Don't be afraid if you need or want to fly! It's business as usual, with a few exceptions." Here are the exceptions she cites:

1) August 2020 is like April 2020 in that there have been some recent cancellations with the resurgence of Covid. Check every leg on your flight schedule before you leave.

2) Don't expect much in-flight service from the flight attendants. They are practicing social distancing too. Consider bringing your own snacks from home. (Pauline here: I've taken six flights in the last five weeks, and on four of them, flight attendants passed out paper bags containing a bottle of water, a small package of cookies, and hand sanitizer. On the other two flights, they gave us nothing.)

3) Half the retail shops in the terminal are closed. (Pauline: In some airports, it's more than half, so if you see a store that's open and sells something you want to purchase, don't assume you can buy the same thing deeper in the terminal. You can't be sure of finding open stores near your gate right now). If you want to make even a small airport purchase like a cup of coffee or bag of chips, expect to use your credit card. No coin change [is being given out].

4) Your drive to the airport is still the most dangerous part of your journey. Flights are full. Be considerate of others. Everyone is wearing their mask. (Pauline: Four of my six flights were full. On one of the emptier ones, I was given a row to myself; on the other empty flight, I was able to move from my full row to an empty one. The key to doing so was not picking an exit row. Since those seats cost more money, passengers who tried to move to those were turned back.)

5) Airplanes don't make you sick—the air inside is continuously forced through hospital-grade HEPA filters—it's the moron two rows away who can't cover his f#@*ing mouth when he sneezes that makes us sick. (Some things never change.) (Pauline: It's important to be proactive right now to protect your health and the health of the people you love. There was mask compliance on all but one of my flights. And in that case, when the dude across the aisle from me slid his mask down to his chin and started to snooze, I woke him up by saying, quite loudly, "Please put your mask back up." He meekly complied.)

To Andrea's blunt tips, let me add a few more:

6) If you're on a flight with meal service (it's very rare these days), don't pull your mask down when everyone else is eating. Instead, wait by your tray and let everyone else finish, and then begin. The air in a cabin is refreshed every 3 minutes, so if you can wait until everyone else finishes their meals, you'll be far safer having your mask down when others have theirs back up.

7) Board with the last group. That way, you'll have fewer potential coughers parading by you on the way to their seats. You can't always do this; some airlines, like Delta, have foreseen this issue and instituted a logical boarding procedure that fills the plane back to front.

8) If you have a choice (and you don't always), fly such carriers as JetBlue and Delta, which are promising to keep middle seats empty for now. (United and American do not promise to leave middle seats unoccupied.) Click here for our updated article detailing the current Covid-19 protocols of every major U.S. airline. Always check it before booking.

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