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Most travelers don’t even know what to expect since there’s not a lot of updates regarding this issue
The U.S. first implemented travel restrictions from May 19 to June 22, 2020 which made flying into the US during the coronavirus pandemic very difficult for travelers.
What’s frustrating is that most travelers don’t even know what to expect since there’s not a lot of updates regarding this issue. Plus, the way restrictions change from time to time adds more confusion to the ever chaotic coronavirus travel situation.
Travel Restrictions and Guidelines
With regards to USA international flights, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has prohibited U.S. citizens to avoid non-essential travel to these following destinations:
- United Kingdom & Ireland
- European Schengen Area (Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Monaco, San Marino, Vatican City)
Foreign nationals who have been in any of these countries for 14 days prior to arriving in the U.S. are prohibited to enter the country.
However, U.S. citizens or permanent residents who have been in any of these countries in the past 14 days and are planning to fly back to the U.S. are allowed to return as long as they enter the country in any of these approved airports.
- Boston-Logan International Airport (BOS), Massachusetts
- Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD), Illinois
- Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW), Texas
- Detroit Metropolitan Airport (DTW), Michigan
- Daniel K. Inouye International Airport (HNL), Hawaii
- Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL), Florida
- George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH), Texas
- Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL), Georgia
- John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK), New York
- Los Angeles International Airport, (LAX), California
- Miami International Airport (MIA), Florida
- Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR), New Jersey
- San Francisco International Airport (SFO), California
- Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA), Washington
- Washington-Dulles International Airport (IAD), Virginia
Read More: Delta First Class During The Covid-19 Pandemic
Things To Expect When Flying Into The US During The Coronavirus Pandemic
The Department of Homeland Security requires travelers to undergo a series of screenings and tests. Travelers are also required to declare their current health condition and medical history to local health authorities before they can proceed to their final destination.
Afterwhich, they need to undergo self-quarantine and monitor their health status for 14 days.
However, that’s just a general overview so here’s a more detailed picture of what really happens in the entire duration of someone’s journey flying into the U.S.
The TSA issued a couple of guidelines that passengers need to follow at airports. For example, passengers are advised to do online check-in using airline apps or at least use self check-in (touchless) kiosks to minimize physical contact. In fact, TSA even suggests that passengers should scan their own boarding passes too.
Passengers are also advised to put objects like phones, watches, belts, and laptops in their carry-ons and not in the bins. The overall goal is to limit physical contact between passengers and airport personnel to minimize the spread of the virus.
TSA officers and airline personnel are required to wear face masks while on duty. Most airlines are also requiring their passengers to wear facemasks or at least providing them with one.
What Are Some Airlines Doing?
United Airlines is strongly promoting social distancing by putting up lots of signage in their waiting areas. The airline has also provided sneeze guards at their customer service stations and check-in counters
Touchless kiosks have also been rolled out in some airports where passengers can print out bag tags by only using a QR code from their smartphones.
Meanwhile, American Airlines is enhancing its sanitation protocols by providing its employees hand sanitizers and sanitary wipes on its departure hubs. They’re also requiring employees and passengers to wear a facemask, however, young children or those with health conditions are exempted.
Lastly, Frontier Airlines is doing temperature checks and pre-screening to make sure that their passengers aren’t showing any Covid-19 symptoms. The airline is also requiring a health acknowledgment form which basically asks passengers if they’re in good health or if they’ve made contact with someone who has displayed symptoms of Covid-19.
Read More: How Airlines Are Adjusting To Coronavirus Safety Measures
Boarding and In-flight Protocols
A lot of airlines are enhancing their sanitation protocols prior to boarding such as disinfecting aircraft in between flights and using fogging procedures.
It’s also expected that high-frequency touchpoint areas will be thoroughly disinfected after each flight. In fact, United even plans to work with Clorox and the Cleveland Clinic to figure out the best disinfecting procedures.
Masks are also required for both employees and passengers during flights. In cases where a passenger is non-compliant, crewmembers will only encourage but won’t use force.
A lot of airlines such as JetBlue, Frontier, and Delta are also adopting a back-to-front boarding procedure. The procedure basically lets back row passengers board first to lessen physical contact among passengers.
What about seat availability and flight services?
A lot of airlines have started blocking middle seats during the peak of the pandemic to promote social distancing on board. However, as the Spring and Summer season approached, travel slowly picked up and airlines have started to sell middle seats again.
This move may have angered a lot of flyers but airline companies thought it was necessary because they’ve been losing a lot of money since the pandemic hit. Reports from IATA says that the airline industry is facing an $84 billion loss in sales in 2020 and another $15 billion in 2021. But
But don’t worry because there are still a few airlines that are blocking middle seats through September 30, 2020 and these are Alaska, Southwest, and Delta.
Read More: How Does Economy Class Seating During Coronavirus Look Like
The Reality Of Flying Into The Us During The Coronavirus Pandemic
There isn’t a unified health screening protocol in U.S. airports compared to New Zealand and Vietnam who have been very successful in handling this issue.
This is a big issue that most travelers have when flying into the U.S. during the coronavirus pandemic because different airports have different protocols.
Some airports are strict while some aren’t and that’s a fact as our Points Panda CEO, Freddy Lansky, experienced it first hand at the Orlando (MCO) Airport when he had a USA international flight to Mexico City.
The Orlando airport didn’t conduct temperature checks or handed out health declaration forms to passengers. Social distancing wasn’t observed as well since people crammed behind each other at the security entrance. A lot of passengers didn’t wear masks too.
In fact, here’s a Tweet from a United passenger showing how crowded it is during his flight.
It’s pretty much expected since the Summer season is coming and people will surely start to travel again. However, it’s just quite ironic that a country that has one of the highest Covid-19 cases in the world can be so lax with its health screening protocols.
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