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Protect yourself from coronavirus when flying

Steps to take if you have air travel coming up
Posted at 11:00 AM, Mar 02, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-02 11:03:17-05

The spreading coronavirus threat has a lot of people re-thinking their travel plans for this spring, or at least taking extra precautions if they have a flight coming up.

So if you are planning to fly somewhere soon, what is the best way to protect yourself from any type of germ or virus on the plane?

It's a real concern to traveler Cynthiann Kesterson, who just flew with her young son. "We gotta keep him germ free, safe. It's a crazy world out there now," she said.

So this Texas mom was extra careful on this trip.

"I just try to wash everything down, wash our hands when we get off the plane, and use lots of good old soap and water," she said.

With coronavirus dominating the headlines, we found a few air travelers wearing face masks. Others carried their own blankets to avoid germs.

"I stay in my seat buckled up, and bring my own blanket," one woman told us.

What airlines are doing to keep planes clean

So how often are airlines cleaning their cabins?

All major airlines say they do a full cabin cleaning, wiping down their seats and tray tables at the end of the flying day.

A recent report in Travel and Leisure,however, claimed that many airlines only change blankets and pillows overnight, meaning that later flights may have used blankets in the overhead bins.

Some airlines, however, now do a disinfectant wipedown between every flight leg for extra safety.

At Ultimate Air Shuttle,a regional airline based in northeast Ohio, Vice President and Marketing Director Rick Pawlak told us they have stepped up their disinfecting, and wipe down seats, tray tables, armrests, and even seat belts after every trip.

"Our flight attendants wipe down the seats before they fly every segment, and we also have masks on board in case we spot somebody who is sick," Pawlet said.

Of course, even if your airline wipes down their equipment between use (and you cannot always be sure they do), it's still a good idea these days to bring some disinfectant wipes and wipe down your tray table and armrests just to be safe.

Doctors say most virus germs are transferred by touching, not just breathing the air.

So traveler Carol Walton was taking extra precautions.

"I was concerned," she said. "I brought sanitizer, I brought wipes, and wiped everything around me down."

Will a face mask protect you?

What about masks?

The CDC does not recommend them if you are healthy, and doctors say only N95 respirator (or better) masks will block cold and virus particles.

Lightweight paper masks offer little protection, and you may end up touching your face more just to keep them adjusted, which then spreads germs from your hand to face.

What about the cabin air?

Airline AC systems use HEPA filters to filter out almost all airborne germs and particles before the air comes out of your ceiling vent.

They say the air coming out of your vent is cleaner than the air around your seat ... So leave the vent on during your flight.

Doctors say if you wash frequently and use disinfectant wipes on a plane, you improve your chances of staying germ free ... and you don't waste your money.


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