As coronavirus lockdown restrictions ease up across the nation while summer approaches, some families suffering from cabin fever are thinking about potential vacations, even if flying will have a different look to it.
The most important question, however, is whether it will be safe to travel by air in the ongoing pandemic.
Domestic flying has not been federally banned, but the demand for travel plummeted after states shuttered businesses and gave stay-at-home orders, prompting some of the nation’s busiest airports to drastically reduce services.
On social media, photos of nearly-empty terminals showed the effects of the pandemic taking hold of the country.
Despite the fact the U.S. hit the grim milestone of 100,000 coronavirus deaths this week, states have begun to reopen their economic activities with strict measures, and airports are formulating their own plans to safely prepare for an influx of travelers.
According to CNBC, the Transportation Security Administration said 348,673 people passed through security checkpoints at airports nationwide last Friday, marking the highest number of passengers in just over two months. The data shows people are willing to fly for leisure, if not, for business.
International travel is still strongly prohibited, as the State Department website shows, leaving folks no choice but to look at domestic destinations for now.
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Data from Expedia shows eight out of 10 most-searched flight destinations last month to travel between July and December were locations in the U.S., as beaches reopened in California and Florida. Orlando topped the list, followed by Honolulu, Las Vegas and Miami. Cancun, Mexico rounded out the top five, but international airports in that country have been suspended or reduced, based on Mexican media reports.
So what will airports and airplanes look like once you travel?
Many airlines have reduced capacity on aircraft, to provide distancing among passengers, and are requiring travelers to wear face coverings and bring along sanitary products.
JetBlue is one of several airlines blocking middle seats on its planes as well as aisle seats on smaller jets but is allowing those traveling together to sit in those seats.
"We're known for generous legroom and space, and now more than ever, those choosing to travel want as much space as possible," President and Chief Operating Officer Joanna Geraghty said in a recent news release. The seat-distancing program is in place through July 6.
American Airlines said it would distribute face masks, while Delta Airlines plans to give out hand sanitizers to travelers throughout flights. For the most part, all major airlines have similar initiatives and cleaning procedures in place, but customers will still have to play their part.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends folks not make any unnecessary travel plans, but should they need to, the agency suggests the following:
Clean your hands often by washing them with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
Use hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
Avoid close contact with others by keeping six feet of physical distance between.
Wear a face covering in public.
At airports, Transportation Security Administration officials said the screening process will change to minimize handling of documents. TSA has started to implement the changes and more to be implemented at airport checkpoints nationwide by mid-June, officials said.
At the end of the day, the decision to travel will largely come down to individual preference and what government restrictions may or may not be in place," Expedia spokesperson Alexis Tiacoh told NJ Advance Media. “Regardless, everyone should feel secure and comfortable in their choices when it’s OK to get out there again.”
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Nestor F. Sebastian may be reached at NSebastian@njadvancemedia.com.
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