air travel

Inconsistent Airline, Government Policies Raise Safety Questions During Pandemic

While some airlines make mask-wearing mandatory and block off middle seats, Consumer Reports has found that overall, COVID-19 precautions are all over the map

NBCUniversal, Inc.

As more people begin to think about flying again, concerns about the transmission of COVID-19 remain high -- and for good reason. As Consumer Reports points out, inconsistencies in government and airline policies have caused headaches since the early days of the pandemic, but there are things you can do to make flying as safe as possible.

While some airlines make mask-wearing mandatory and block off middle seats, Consumer Reports has found that overall, COVID-19 precautions are all over the map.

In many cases, the policies conflict. So if someone is flying on two different airlines on the same day, they may very well have two different sets of rules.

CR says without federal rules in place, airlines aren’t being held accountable for making their flights as safe as possible. In addition, the Department of Transportation hasn’t stepped up to protect consumers as it should.

If you must fly, here’s what you can do to keep yourself safe.

  • Before you book, contact the airline to ask if it guarantees empty middle seats and how strictly it enforces mask-wearing.
  • Pack a bag with extra masks, hand sanitizer and sanitizing wipes.
  • After boarding, clean your space. Be sure to wipe down the area around you, including the air nozzle above your seat. And be sure to direct the air from the nozzle directly onto you for the entire flight.

One expert told CR the safest place on a plane is a window seat, where the filtered air comes in directly above a traveler's head. A passenger would also have less contact with people who pass by them as they would in an aisle seat.

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