All your questions about flying during the pandemic answered

With the World Health Organization (WHO) officially declaring COVID-19 a pandemic, you may be questioning whether it's safe to fly during the coronavirus outbreak. Non-essential travel between many countries If prohibited, you may face the potential dangers of traveling during a pandemic. If you do choose to fly during the coronavirus outbreak, doctors agree on some strategies for staying healthy.

How is coronavirus affecting flights?

Remember, the State Department recommends that all Americans avoid international travel immediately. "U.S. citizens living in the United States should make arrangements to return to the United States immediately unless they are prepared to remain abroad indefinitely, in countries where commercial departure options remain available," the department's travel advisory website warns. "U.S. citizens living abroad should avoid All international travel." Here are the responses from major U.S. airlines:

American Airlines:

  • Domestic flight capacity in July 2020 was approximately 55% of domestic flight capacity in July 2019, meaning that only 55% of flights were taking off compared to the same period last year.
  • International flight capacity is approximately 20% compared to services available in July 2019.
  • American Airlines no longer blocks seats to encourage social distancing.

You can find more details in the American Airlines newsroom.


  • Delta Air Lines operates domestic flights from most airports in the United States.
  • Delta Air Lines will not fly to many airports in South America or Europe in the coming months, although service has resumed in Australia.
  • Delta Air Lines has committed to blocking seats through September 30.

You can find more details in the Delta Newsroom.


  • The company expects United to operate at about 40% domestic travel capacity in July 2020 compared with July 2019.
  • United announced in early July that it would expand service between Chicago and Tel Aviv in August. It will also resume services between Los Angeles and Sydney and between Chicago and Hong Kong in September.
  • United expects to re-expand its international service in August 2020 due to the international travel ban on travelers from the United States.
  • United is not blocking seats to encourage social distancing.

You can find more details on United's travel updates website.

JetBlue Airways will block middle seats to maintain social distancing through Labor Day, and Alaska Airlines and Southwest Airlines will block seats until September 30, according to the New York Times .

Is it possible to fly within the United States during the coronavirus outbreak?

Yes, you can still fly within the United States, however, you may see your options significantly reduced. Although the number of domestic flights in July 2020 will still be much lower than in July 2019, major airlines such as United Airlines will add approximately 25,000 domestic flights in the summer of 2020.

Depending on the states you are traveling to or from, you may need to quarantine for 14 days after travel. That being said, the coronavirus situation anywhere can change rapidly. You'll want to stay informed about the coronavirus status of any U.S. city you plan to visit, and then plan accordingly. For example, Puerto Rico was originally scheduled to reopen to tourism on July 15, but delayed the reopening of non-essential travel due to rising cases.

Which countries or regions have issued travel bans on Americans?

In an effort to stop the spread of COVID-19, travelers from the United States are being denied entry to more than 30 countries and territories around the world.

On July 16, 27 EU countries extended their ban on U.S. travelers. The EU will review the list of banned countries every two weeks. New Zealand has banned travelers from the United States as the country's coronavirus infection rate drops to near zero. Although the island reopened to international travel from elsewhere on July 1, Americans can no longer travel to the Bahamas for commercial purposes. According to Forbes, China and Japan have banned U.S. tourists, and Mexico and Canada are not allowing non-essential travel from the United States.

If my flight is canceled due to coronavirus, can I get a refund?

Due to the coronavirus and recent travel restrictions, many airlines have temporarily changed their rebooking and cancellation rules. If you purchased summer flights at the start of the pandemic, airlines are regularly adjusting their refund policies to keep up with the latest COVID-19 developments. Here's a quick breakdown of refund and exchange policies for major U.S. airlines:


  • "Coronavirus-affected travel" change fees are waived for tickets purchased between March 1 and July 31, 2020.
  • Domestic and international flights scheduled to depart before September 30, 2020 are also eligible for fee reductions.

Please visit the Delta Air Lines website for more information.

United Airlines:

  • Change fees are waived for all "coronavirus-affected" tickets. This applies to all domestic and international flights ticketed between April 1, 2020, and July 31, 2020.
  • For travel occurring within 12 months of the original ticket issuance date, a new ticket of equal or lower value may be issued free of charge.

Please visit the United Airlines website for more information.


  • Passengers do not need to pay change fees when changing flights. All you have to do is cancel your flight within 10 minutes of departure and use the funds for future travel until September 7, 2022.

Please visit the Southwest Airlines website for more information.

JetBlue Airways:

  • For customers traveling before July 31, change/cancellation fees will be waived as long as the new flight is booked before July 31, 2020 (available before the end of the JetBlue flight schedule).

Please visit the JetBlue website for more information.

American Airlines:

  • Change fees are waived for passengers who purchase tickets on or before July 31 for travel scheduled before September 30, 2020.
  • Passengers must be able to travel before December 31, 2021 or within one year from the date of ticket issuance, whichever is earlier.

Please visit the American Airlines website for more information.

Alaska Airlines:

  • Tickets purchased between February 27, 2020 and July 31, 2020, with travel dates between February 27, 2020 and June 30, 2021, can be canceled free of charge and redeemed for future travel points.

Please visit the Alaska Airlines website for more information.

You should also read the airline's general rebooking and cancellation policies.

Coronavirus Travel Notices from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

The CDC provides a helpful breakdown of travel advisories that rank the level of risk (on a scale of one to three) for traveling to specific countries. It currently advises people to avoid all non-essential international travel due to the "widespread, ongoing spread" of coronavirus. The CDC has also issued a Level 3 warning for global cruise travel. Additionally, the United States has implemented travel restrictions on non-U.S. citizens arriving from European countries affected by the coronavirus. According to the CDC, if U.S. citizens return to the United States from any of these countries, they should quarantine for 14 days.

How safe are planes during the pandemic?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), traveling by plane during the coronavirus pandemic isn’t necessarily as dangerous as you might think — planes filter circulating air, allowing viral particles to disperse (and therefore the likelihood of infecting you) smaller). However, the CDC says the difficulty of maintaining social distance in potentially crowded airports or on crowded flights does increase the risk of exposure to the coronavirus.

If you're flying, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) recommends that you avoid using the trash cans at security checkpoints and instead put loose items like phones, keys, and wallets in your carry-on luggage to avoid cross-contamination. Wash your hands before and after going through security, and wear a mask throughout the airport. The TSA also encourages you to scan your boarding pass whenever possible to minimize contact. Despite the usual 3 fluid ounce rule, TSA allows you to bring up to 12 ounces of hand sanitizer on flights until further notice.

But just because you can fly doesn't mean you should. If you are sick, avoid flying and be sure to follow state quarantine rules when traveling to or from areas with high infection rates.

Should immunocompromised people, the elderly, or pregnant women fly during the coronavirus outbreak?

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says pregnant women do not appear to be more susceptible to coronavirus and there is no evidence the virus can be passed to the fetus. Still, Daniel Roshan, director of the Roche Center for Maternal-Fetal Medicine in New York City, told The Washington Post that he believes pregnant women should avoid flying if they can.

On the other hand, the CDC reports that older adults and people with "serious chronic medical conditions" such as heart disease, diabetes, and lung disease are at higher risk of "severe illness" from the coronavirus than the general population. . It therefore advises them to avoid "all non-essential travel" for the time being, including air travel and cruise ship travel.

Will it be cheaper if you book your flight now?

Yes, you may be able to book cheaper domestic or international flights during the coronavirus outbreak - but that doesn't mean it's a good idea.

The CDC says social distancing is one of the most effective ways to curb the spread of the coronavirus, even if you're perfectly healthy or in a low-risk age group for COVID-9, and you can't really practice social distancing while you're flying. Additionally, when you travel, you carry germs with you everywhere you go. So if you fly somewhere, contract the virus, and then come home, you could potentially spread the virus to countless other people along the way, even if you don't show any symptoms at all. Even if you want to take advantage of cheap air tickets to plan your summer vacation in 2021, remember that it's not certain there will be a vaccine or widespread treatment by then - so proceed with caution.

If you travel during the coronavirus outbreak, will you be quarantined?

Many states currently require a 14-day quarantine if you are traveling from an area with high infection rates. Different states have different criteria for when you should quarantine, and the lists are updated regularly.

How to disinfect airplane seating areas during the coronavirus outbreak

If you must fly during the coronavirus outbreak, there are several ways to stay as healthy as possible while traveling. You can use disinfectant wipes to clean your area, and be sure to wipe down all hard surfaces around you, the New York Times reports . This includes remote controls, screens, seat belt buckles, seat trays and seat pockets.

As with any leather or porous surface, like your actual seats, try not to wipe them with wipes, as this can spread germs instead of killing them, according to the New York Times . Instead, be prepared to use hand sanitizer liberally before and after touching commonly used surfaces.

Airline cleaning protocols in response to coronavirus

There's reason to believe the area around airplanes may be cleaner than before COVID-19 started spreading. "When I was working this weekend, everyone had a pack of wipes and was wiping everything down," an Atlanta flight attendant told Bustle in March. "This is probably the cleanest airplane ever built."

Separately, some airlines have stepped up cleaning procedures during the coronavirus outbreak. Southwest Airlines has implemented a new "Enhanced Aircraft Cleaning Program" that adds HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filters. According to a press release, HEPA filters "filter recirculated air on each aircraft to remove airborne particles." However, BuzzFeed News notes that coronavirus particles are too small to be filtered from the air.

Other ways to protect yourself from coronavirus while flying

There are some standard strategies you can adopt to keep yourself as safe from germs as possible while traveling.

"People should take the same measures for the coronavirus as they would for the flu or any other virus," explains Dr. Jeanne Kelly, an attending physician at Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn, New York. "Don't touch surfaces that have been touched by sick people. Wash your hands regularly and use Disinfectants. Avoid contact with people who are sneezing and coughing.”

Dr. Maria Snell, assistant director of Maryville University's online nursing practice program, tells Bustle that disinfecting wipes can come in handy, too. In addition to state mask requirements, major U.S. airlines require masks while traveling.

Ultimately, while traveling generally increases your chances of getting sick, that doesn't necessarily mean you need to be wary. "It's important to be safe, but it's also important not to panic," Dr. Snell said.

Travel and health conditions can change rapidly in response to the outbreak. Consider following the CDC and World Health Organization on social media to stay informed, especially if you have travel plans.

expert :

Marea Snell, Ph.D., MD, Assistant Director, Maryville University Online Doctor of Nursing Practice Program

Dr. Janine Kelly, MD, Attending Physician, Maimonides Medical Center

If you think you have symptoms of coronavirus , including fever, shortness of breath and cough, call NHS 111 in the UK or visit the CDC website in the US for the latest information and resources. You can find all of Bustle's coronavirus coverage here , as well as UK-specific coronavirus updates .