December 17, 2020 – As a result of the pandemic, much has changed at airports. Travelers are unsure about the current state of travel, especially by air.
As part of the nation’s largest leisure travel agency, AAA Club Alliance, including AAA Oklahoma and 12 other states plus the District of Columbia, has developed “What is the State of Flying during the Pandemic?”. It is a first-hand look at what travelers can expect at airports and from airlines across the country when they feel ready to travel. It explains differences travelers will see from the time they enter the airport to the time they board the plane.
The content, produced in collaboration with the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG), is now featured on “The Extra Mile,” a new online experience built on AAA’s 100-plus years of travel and automotive expertise. Content on the new site helps members feel more informed in their travels through AAA’s advice, tutorials and reviews. It is available to all six million AAA Club Alliance members and the general public at AAA.com/ExtraMile.
Many airports have similar best practice goals for travel safety and are striving to achieve an industry-approved global Health Accreditation from Airports Council International, which assesses an airport's compliance with new health measures and procedures resulting from the pandemic. CVG was the first airport in the Midwest, and third in the United States to achieve this accreditation. The closest airports to Oklahoma that have the accreditation are the two in Houston.
Changes to Airport and Airline Procedures
Airports and airlines are taking extraordinary measures to make air travel safe, clean and comfortable during all phases of the air travel experience, from check-in, to flying, to baggage claim. Changes that travelers can expect include, but are not limited to: friendly directional social distancing signage, contactless check-in experiences, mask requirements, plexiglass barriers to protect employees and travelers, frequent cleaning of all surfaces in high traffic areas, pre-packaged to-go meals, contactless ordering service at sit-down restaurants, social distanced seating at gates and additional hand sanitizer stations throughout the airport.
Passengers should be aware of changes by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) process. Traditional baggage requirements for carry-on luggage still apply, however, the TSA now allows one liquid hand sanitizer container up to 12 ounces in carry-on bags until further notice. Other liquids are still required to be less than 3.4 ounces. In most cases, TSA.gov advises that passengers will need to have their hand sanitizer containers over 3.4 ounces screened separately from the rest of their luggage. New plexiglass barriers protect both TSA staff and passengers as boarding passes are scanned, and IDs are checked. All TSA staff wears masks, and surfaces are frequently seen being wiped down and sanitized.
AAA also suggests passengers consider TSA Pre✓® designation, which will help minimize the number of contacts at the airport. With TSA Pre✓®, travelers have no need to remove shoes, 3-1-1 liquids, laptops, light outerwear or belts. Today, TSA Pre✓® has more than 450 lanes at 200+ U.S. airports.
BOARDING AND ONBOARD FLIGHT EXPERIENCE
While boarding procedures may vary as a result of the pandemic, most carriers now board from the back to the front as opposed to by zones. This allows less contact as passengers make their way to their seat. Additionally, most carriers are requiring passengers to wear a mask for the duration of the flight. Passengers are advised to check with their airline for specific details about mask requirements. Lastly, airlines also promote in-flight social distancing by either blocking middle seats or limiting the number of seats sold on flights.
AAA offers the following recommendations for future air travel experiences:
Use a trusted travel agent. Booking through a travel agent gives you peace of mind that the agent will advocate on your behalf, getting you the information you need and facilitating any future changes or cancellations. When booking new travel, consumers should ask about cancellation, rebooking and refund policies.
Follow the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and state/local guidance recommendations. Review recommendations for everyday preventative measures to keep everyone safe. Check with the state or local authorities at your planned destination and along your route to understand any restrictions that may be in place as well as the impact COVID-19 has had on the locale.
Pack with safety in mind. Update your packing list to now include masks, TSA size-approved hand sanitizer, and disinfectant wipes. AAA offers the Travel Kit: Peace of Mind Pack online and in local stores. Check your local airport convenience store for similar kits if you forget to pack one.
Check the airport’s website. There is a wealth of information and resources for airport updates and protocols. Some airports may offer video tours of new procedures to help travelers feel comfortable and confident before leaving home.
Use the AAA mobile app. Remember to bring the AAA mobile app along for the ride. You'll be able to make hotel reservations at AAA member rates, and find local attractions, restaurants, and other venues that offer AAA discounts.
Check the AAA COVID Travel Tracker. Visit AAA’s Covid-19 Travel Restrictions Map at TripTik.AAA.com for the latest state and local travel restrictions. AAA’s TripTik digital product has incorporated instant access to COVID-19 updates from around the United States. Users simply define the stops along their itinerary within the digital product, and the latest COVID restrictions and information is just a click away. You can also bring the AAA mobile app along for the ride. You'll be able to make hotel reservations at AAA member rates, and find local attractions, restaurants, and other venues that offer AAA discounts.
Share your feedback. Airlines want to hear from consumers to help make the travel experience more comfortable for future passengers.