SAN ANTONIO – Despite a coast-to-coast resurgence of the novel coronavirus, airports are bracing for an increase of travelers this holiday season.
It’s a grim intersection as the health crisis is expected to worsen with family gatherings, an increase of possible exposure at airports and holiday shopping in the mix.
The San Antonio International Airport says days surrounding Thanksgiving and Christmas are usually the busiest of the year. For Thanksgiving, the peak travel period starts Thursday and ends Nov. 25, and for Christmas, the peak travel period lasts Dec. 19-24.
But since the beginning of the pandemic, the airport has implemented protocols that will make traveling look different than in years' past.
The San Antonio airport was the first in the world to deploy a Xenex LightStrike robot, named SAT Terminator, to disinfect surfaces from SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
Seats in the airport are socially distanced, the airport states, and there are contactless check-in areas and additional hand sanitizing stations.
As always, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends wearing a face mask while traveling.
For those who do plan on traveling this holiday season during the pandemic, here are some tips from the San Antonio airport, the CDC, and additional articles:
- During peak travel seasons, the San Antonio airport advises travelers to arrive two hours before their boarding time.
- Each traveler can take one liquid hand sanitizer up to 12 ounces in carry-on bags.
- Travelers should print their boarding passes early before they arrive at the airport, the airport states.
- Gifts should not be wrapped, as TSA agents may have to unwrap them.
- The CDC recommends those who are thinking about traveling should check the state’s COVID-19 cases.
- Travelers should check their destination’s COVID-19 protocols, such as mask mandates, quarantine rules or mandatory testing, the CDC states.
- Travelers should test themselves for COVID-19 starting two weeks before their flight, according to ab article from National Geographic. The safest protocol calls for three negative tests over two weeks.
- If travelers get hungry, they should eat at the food court or restaurant inside the parking lot. If they’re eating at the gate, their exposed mouths are closer to other travelers, National Geographic states.
- The window seat is the safest, Vicki Hertzberg, a professor in Emory University’s School of Nursing, told The Washington Post. That’s because aisle seats are closer to potentially infected passengers.
- The TSA allows passengers to bring disinfecting wipes in their carry-on bags— it’s not a bad idea to wipe the seats, armrests, seatbelts and other contact areas as some airlines may no longer be doing so between flights. Southwest Airlines said in a memo that flight crews focus on high-touch areas like tray tables and lavatories, but not armrests or seatbelts.
- An article from the Los Angeles Times states that travelers should place the air vent above their seat straight in their face and at full strength.
- Stick to carry-on bags if possible. Travelers who check-in bags have to cluster around the baggage carousel after their flight, meaning there could be possible exposure.
- Avoid talking on flights, the LA Times writes, as more talking can create more germs in the air.
Some governors and mayors in places from California to Pennsylvania have ramped up safety precautions ahead of Thanksgiving, but Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has ruled out any lockdown.
The virus is blamed for nearly 250,000 deaths and over 11 million confirmed infections in the U.S. so far. According to the Associated Press, deaths per day in the U.S. have climbed to an average of 1,145.