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Published on December 14, 2021

Is it safe to fly during the pandemic?

COVID Travel

When you’re planning that long-awaited trip to see your relatives over the holidays, or dreaming about a vacation in a warmer climate, you can have peace of mind knowing that air travel is considered safe even as COVID-19 continues to circulate.

“Air travel has not been a source of any outbreaks (of COVID-19),” said Gary Tratt, MD, FACP, a Cape Cod Healthcare primary care physician with Cape Cod Primary Care. “I feel confident if you wear your mask, and you are protected with the vaccine, then you really don’t have a lot to worry about.”

According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, (JAMA), the risk of contracting COVID-19 during air travel is lower than an office building, classroom, supermarket or commuter train.

The airflow in jets is much faster than in buildings. Half of the fresh air is from the outside and the other half is re-cycled through HEPA filters, which are the same type used in operating rooms.

While you can feel safe flying with the environmental protocols in place on your jet, there are still other considerations to keep in mind.

Precautions to Protect Yourself

The following are suggestions from JAMA:

  • Wear a mask.
  • Don’t travel if you feel unwell.
  • Keep your distance from others wherever possible.
  • Report to staff if someone is clearly unwell.
  • Limit your carry-on luggage.
  • If there is an overhead air nozzle, point it straight at your head and keep it on full.
  • Wash or sanitize your hands frequently, and don’t touch your face.

Dr. Tratt also has some additional advice:

  • For those with respiratory conditions, make sure you carry your medications with you,
  • Remember your CPAP machine, if you use one
  • Make sure you are up to date with your vaccinations
  • Stay hydrated.

“If you are considering a trip outside of the United States, know what the COVID-19 restrictions are for that country and re-entry back into the U.S.,” said Dr. Tratt. “There is a lot of risk traveling outside the United States right now; some countries are in complete lockdown. There are countries, like in Africa, with 10-20% vaccination rates.”

Also, check your health insurance coverage.

“Most insurance companies do not cover COVID-19, it’s an exception,” said Dr. Tratt.

One of the insurances that doesn’t pay for medical care outside of the United States is Medicare, except in limited situations, according to their website.

While COVID-19 continues its own journey through countries, with variants that continue to surface, you can feel safe flying along with taking precautions, Dr. Tratt said.

“Basically, it’s (COVID-19) preventable just by wearing your mask over your nose and mouth, washing your hands, and being protected with the vaccine before you go,” he said.