Let’s talk about commercial air travel. Here is what you need to know.

As stay-at-home orders lift and a “now normal” dictates changes to our old routines and practices, most of us remain unsure about the recommendations, risks and requirements regarding air travel. 

Let’s talk about commercial air travel. Here is what you need to know.

While the status and implications of coronavirus remain fluid, we’ve rounded up advice from experts and resources for your reference as you plan upcoming business activities.


First and foremost, experts agree, travel should be limited to “need to” not “nice to” circumstances. And if you are sick, you should stay home. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others from getting COVID-19.

That said, many organizations have both near- and long-term objectives and targets that necessitate business trips. If you need to travel, here are the best ways to protect yourself:

Wear a mask in public.
Evidence suggests that people with COVID-19 can transmit the disease even when they don’t have any symptoms, so wearing a face covering can help prevent community spread.

Practice physical distancing.
Stay at least six feet or about two arms’ length from others. Reducing contact with other people is the best way to avoid exposure.

Act like a germaphobe.
Wash your hands after being in any public space, and avoid touching your face. Carry hand sanitizer with you and use it when you do not have access to a place to wash your hands.

Limit indoor activities.
Avoid eating inside restaurants, and instead opt for takeout or drive-throughs. Skip the hotel gym and take a walk outside. Be cognizant of prolonged periods of time with people inside and seek alternatives when possible.

These precautions are particularly critical for high-risk populations including older adults and people of any age who have serious underlying medical conditions.


While the risk of exposure to COVID-19 understandably escalates with any increased human contact, air travel raises unique concerns and obstacles.

According to Joseph Allen, assistant professor of exposure assessment science at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, the airplane itself should not be your biggest concern. In an article he penned for the Washington Post, “Airplanes don’t make you sick. Really.” Allen says “required aircraft systems do a really good job of controlling airborne bacteria and viruses.” He goes on to say, “Airplanes use the same air filter — a HEPA filter — recommended by the CDC for (COVID-19) isolation rooms with recirculated air. Such filters capture 99.97 percent of airborne particles.” Wearing a mask on planes and wiping down tables and arm rests with a disinfectant provides an additional layer of defense.

Although airlines have instituted mask-wearing policies for crew and passengers, several airlines have relaxed those restrictions in flight. At this writing, American Airlines, United Airlines and Delta Air Lines are now threatening to ban passengers who refuse to wear a mask on board, and other airlines may follow suit. 

Airports are less controlled environments, and thus present increased risk of exposure during travel.
Diligent hand hygiene, face coverings and social distancing are easy ways to mitigate risk. Further, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has adjusted protocols at security screening checkpoints in response to COVID-19. In addition to cleaning and disinfecting and enforcing physical distance in lines, the TSA has made some changes of note:

  • Exemption for Hand Sanitizer: TSA is allowing one liquid hand sanitizer container, up to 12 ounces per passenger, in carry-on bags until further notice.
  • Expired Driver’s License and REAL ID Extension: If your driver's license or state-issued ID expired on or after March 1, 2020, and you are unable to renew at your state driver’s license agency, you may still use it as acceptable identification at TSA checkpoints.
  • Consolidated Screening Operations: Due to reduced passenger volumes, some security checkpoints may be closed and travelers may be redirected to other checkpoints.

Other Considerations
Allen reminds us that “Every time you fly, you may also take a cab, bus or subway; stand in long lines in the airport; eat unhealthy foods; sit for extended durations; spend time in spaces with hundreds or thousands of other travelers; stay at a hotel or friend’s home; arrive in a different climate and change time zones, disrupting your sleep. All of these factors are known to affect your immune system.” These considerations make hand hygiene, face coverings and social distancing all the more important.

For complete and up-to-date information, please visit the TSA website.


While the TSA and CDC continue to issue guidance, check with individual carriers for their current rules and protocols related to COVID-19:

You can find the latest considerations for travelers from the CDC website. And please do not hesitate to call on the team at the TEN|10 Group if we can be of assistance during these times of uncertainty.