How Safe is it to Fly? 67 Percent of Americans Are Uncomfortable Flying, Survey Finds

For the past four months, countries around the world have been combatting the coronavirus pandemic as it touched every corner of the globe. Many of us have been isolating in our homes doing our part to stop the spread of the virus, and planning a vacation might be the last thing on our to-do list. Though, dreaming of where to go next, once the world is safer, is on a lot of people's minds. But when will that be? Well, it varies depending on who you ask and where they live.

According to a recent survey conducted by Manifest, a business how-to and news website, 67 percent of Americans said they were uncomfortable with air travel.

LAX screening
A traveler is checked with a handheld thermometer near a test system of thermal imaging cameras which check body temperatures at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) amid the COVID-19 pandemic on June 24, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. The system is being tested in the international terminal and can flag passengers who have a fever, one of the symptoms of the coronavirus. Mario Tama/Getty

The survey accounts for 351 Americans' comfort with travel in May 2020 and another 501 American opinions on travel during the COVID-19 pandemic in July 2020. The results did not change from month to month.

Most of 2020 has so far consisted of managing varying degrees of lockdown and limiting leaving our homes at all, not to mention getting on a plane and leaving our cities or towns altogether. Though, as restrictions continue to loosen, traveling is now possible in some places if the proper precautions are taken. Looking forward, the survey found that only 23 percent of people have fully canceled their 2020 travel plans and 15 percent are actually continuing to plan upcoming trips.

For those who do choose to fly this summer, travel expert Johnny Jet, says some things can help make the experience a safer, more comfortable one. Though the self-proclaimed "road warrior" has not flown since February.

Delta plane cleaning
A airport employee performs an aircraft disinfecting demonstration during a media preview at the Ronald Reagan National Airport on July 22, 2020 in Arlington, Virginia. During the COVID-19 pandemic all Delta employees and passengers are required to wear facemasks while onboard a Delta plane. Michael A. McCoy/Getty

"I would book tickets last minute to try and get on a flight that has a light load—use miles to save cash," he tells Newsweek. "If you're worried, I would book Delta Air Lines first, since they're doing the best job with COVID-19 and they're keeping the middle seat open. Southwest Airlines is a close second."

He says to do some research to find out which flights have lighter loads, like American Airlines' 777, which only flies once a day between Los Angeles' LAX and Miami. Nonstop flights are also helpful and of course—what has become a habit for a lot of us now—pack plenty of disinfectant wipes and hand sanitizer. The TSA has upped its liquid cap to 12 ounces for hand sanitizer.

Valerie Joy Wilson, travel expert and blogger, has flown three times since May. Wilson tested positive for the virus at the beginning of March, so waited until she was able to receive a negative coronavirus test and an antibodies test before visiting family in May. She said when airlines started requiring masks, she felt much more comfortable. Now when flying she wears an N95 mask, face shield, and on her first trip she wore gloves too.

Thermal camera
A thermal camera checks the body temperature at Manuel Márquez de León airport on July 17, 2020 in La Paz, Mexico. While most of the Mexican States remain in orange color level, some activities considered non essential are now allowed by the government and the 'new normal' is gradually assimilated by society. Alfredo Martinez/Getty

"I've always been the type of person to have antibacterial wipes, and lots of hand sanitizer. I've always wiped my seat, tray table, armrests and seat belts before sitting," Wilson tells Newsweek. "Now I do so even more diligently."

On her most recent trip to Mexico, she took it a step further and wore a hazmat suit on board her flight. She says she wanted to "make the point that you can travel and be safe, and not be a part of the problem or the spread."

After that experience, though, she decided the suit was unnecessary and more of a hassle—especially when using the restroom.

The results of the survey also varied depending on the region in which respondents lived as well as their age. People from places that have been more successful at containing the virus—or flattening the curve—were more open to the idea of travel than those in areas with higher case numbers.

Hazmat suit, Valerie Joy Wilson
Wilson took a recent trip to Mexico wearing a hazmat suit, though decided after that trip that the suit was more of a bother than a help. VALERIE JOY WILSON

In May, the number of people in the Northeast who were '"very uncomfortable" traveling was 67 percent; in the July results, that number dropped to 51 percent. New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and other Northeastern states have continued to see a steady drop of cases and hospitalizations due to the virus. The New York Times reported Thursday that 4 out of 100,000 COVID-19 patients were being hospitalized due to the virus in New York; whereas in places like Rio Grande Valley and Corpus Christi Texas, that number surpassed 100.

New York City–based travel expert, Lee Abbamonte, who has traveled to every country in the world, has taken 15 or 16 flights since the pandemic began. He said after isolating in his apartment for three months and getting tested for the virus he was ready to get out of the city.

"Flying during the pandemic is a personal choice so I wouldn't really give people advice whether they should or shouldn't, it's up to them and their personal risk tolerance and whether they feel comfortable," Abbamonte tells Newsweek.

Hazmat Suit London Airport
Passengers determined to avoid the coronavirus before leaving the UK arrive at Gatwick Airport on March 17, 2020 in Gatwick, United Kingdom. Mike Hewitt/Getty

He says his preflight routine has remained mostly the same except now he carries sanitary wipes and wears a mask on board. He also gets to the airport a bit closer to flight time to avoid unnecessary time spent in the airport.

"Also, just be prepared and be patient because the worst part about flying during a pandemic is dealing with other people who don't follow the rules," Abbamonte said. "Like not covering [their] mouth and nose with masks quite as strictly as you do."

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