7 Reminders to Help You Plan for Contactless Airport Travel

In response to COVID-19, the world and the way we travel have changed dramatically in the past several months. Some of these trends that we believed would be temporary -- whole-office remote work, telemedicine, distance learning -- now seem like they just might be our new normal. Despite airports being hit hard when the pandemic first began, they’ve made adjustments to ensure that passengers are safe when they travel.

Airlines have opened new flight routes and revamped sanitation standards in response to traveler demand. Furthermore, to protect passengers, airport operations provide a safer, contactless experience. Are you ready for these changes?

Some of the advice and technology mentioned here are not new. However, now, they’re more important than ever. Here are 7 ways you can plan for a contactless airport travel experience.

1. Wear a Facemask

In most airports, masks are mandatory for the majority of travelers. So, make sure to bring one, and put it on before you enter the airport. If you forget, some airlines will provide a disposable mask, but it may not be wise to count on it.

Not only should you wear a mask, but do so properly to protect yourself and those around you. Here’s how:

  • First, wash your hands.
  • Next, place the mask over your mouth and nose. Secure it under your chin.
  • Then, be sure that the mask fits snugly around the sides of your face and that you can easily breathe.

Note that the CDC doesn’t recommend masks with exhalation valves or vents.

Those that fall into certain categories may be exempted from wearing a mask when traveling. Exemptions include children under the age of two, people with written instructions from a licensed medical provider stating that they should not, and others with disabilities, mental health conditions, or sensory sensitivities that prevent them from doing so.

Some exemptions may not be obvious at first. For example, when in communication with a hearing impaired person, the ability to see the mouth is essential.

2. Follow Social Distancing Recommendations

In the past, traveling through many large airports required shoulder-to-shoulder contact through security. As with most public places, social distancing is now encouraged at airports. So, be sure to stay at least six feet apart from others at all times.

3. Stay Behind Protective Barriers

To keep airport employees safe, protective shields have been added to many checkpoints, kiosks, and desks. When moving through an airport, be mindful of these barriers and stay on your side.

4. Keep Your Hands Germ-Free

When you wash your hands, you should do so for a minimum of 20 seconds. If you need an easy way to keep track of time while washing up, some people recommend silently singing the ABCs or Happy Birthday To You twice over so that you know you’ve spent enough time. Of course, you can sing any song with at least a 20-second chorus.

Hand sanitizer stations have been added throughout most facilities, airports included. Take advantage of sanitizer at every opportunity. In addition to your usual liquid allowance, the TSA now allows one up to 12-ounce liquid hand sanitizer container per passenger in carry-on bags.

5. Give Yourself Extra Time for Travel & Expect Delays

Expecting flight delays has always been one of the best ways to avoid disappointment when you travel by air. Now, this is especially important advice because there are even more opportunities for hold-ups.

Today, airport shuttles and other transportation options have limits on the number of passengers they will accommodate at one time. You could also run into delays at security checkpoints while TSA makes accommodations to keep people safe. You may need to wait longer than usual at several points in your air travel journey.

6. Be Aware of Changes at TSA Checkpoints

To reduce contact with others, TSA officers are now required to wear surgical masks and gloves. On a similar note, some of the duties once handled by agents must now be done by travelers. For example, passengers are responsible for removing and adjusting their own personal belongings and items in carry-on luggage when moving through security.

However, in some cases, physical pat-downs will still be required. TSA can’t ask travelers to pat themselves down. In these cases, agents will change their gloves with each pat-down and upon passenger request.

7. Use Contactless Payment Methods When Possible

To save time, self-check-in from a mobile device or common use self-service kiosk has been recommended during airport travel since before the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, some airlines are testing contactless health screening devices. Travelers are already encouraged to use contactless payment methods for all airport transactions. When possible, plan to pay with the right tech.

Contactless credit cards use EMV chip technology with near-field communication (NFC) for payments. With this tech, you can “tap-and-go” by waving your card near a reader. Some popular, easy-to-use, and commonly accepted options are Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, and Google Pay.

Final Thoughts

The advice here was adapted from the most recent TSA and CDC guidance. For the most up-to-date travel safety information, check with the CDC, TSA, or your airline.

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