Traveling Safely During COVID-19

PLEASE NOTE: Travel information is constantly changing. Please check the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), your travel provider, and with state and local authorities for the most current requirements and recommendations.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) no longer is advising against nonessential travel domestically, but continues to advise against international travel and, certainly, traveling if you are sick. This article will take you through the essential information and steps to consider when creating an activity hazard analysis (AHA) or job hazard analysis (JHA) for traveling by airplane. This will help in the efforts to keep you and your employees protected from arrival at the airport, to deplaning in a new city.

No form of travel is completely safe, the CDC notes: “We don’t know if one type of travel is safer than others; however, airports, bus stations, train stations and rest stops are all places travelers can be exposed to the virus in the air and on surfaces. These are also places where it can be hard to social distance (keep 6 feet apart from other people).” The following steps can be taken to best protect yourself.

  • Clean your hands often.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth.
  • Keep 6 feet of physical distance from others.
  • Wear a cloth face covering in public.
  • Cover coughs and sneezes.
  • Pick up food at drive-throughs, curbside restaurant service, or stores.
  • Bring alcohol wipes with you and wipe down anything you’re going to touch.
  • If anybody around you is sick, get off the airplane.

The above steps should all be considered when creating an activity analysis form or job hazard analysis for employees traveling.

For air travel, the CDC says, “viruses and other germs do not spread easily on flights because of how air circulates and is filtered on airplanes. Airlines say their on-board air filters are highly effective at removing pathogens and that they have stepped up cleaning of aircraft, disinfecting surfaces and using devices like foggers to disinfect cabins.

Social distancing on planes is becoming easier than previously because planes are flying emptier. According to Airlines for America, a trade group that represents carriers including American, Delta, United, Southwest and others. A4A estimates 73% of U.S. flights are less than half full. However, social distancing is difficult on crowded flights, and you may have to sit near others (within 6 feet), sometimes for hours.”

U.S. airports and major airlines also report they are following CDC guidelines for sanitizing public interfaces: cleaning, with disinfectant, all check-in kiosks, ticket counters, gate seating — among other frequently touched areas — multiple times a day, and providing hand sanitizer throughout ticket and boarding areas. Many also require passengers to wear masks from the check-in counter through deplaning. These are all great controls to consider using when creating an AHA or JHA.

The TSA is asking travelers to use enhanced precautions during airport screening, including putting personal items such as wallets, phones and keys into carry-on bags instead of plastic bins, and staying 6 feet from others waiting in line. TSA officers are required to wear masks and gloves, and travelers are encouraged to wear masks as well. Passengers are allowed to bring liquid hand sanitizer up to 12 ounces in carry-on bags; previously liquids could be in containers of no more than 3 ounces.

To help create your activity hazard analysis or job hazard analysis, you should answer the following questions, as well as check the link below which refers to state and local government restrictions.

  • Is COVID-19 spreading in your community or the area you are visiting.
  • Have you or a peer that you have been around had any underlying conditions that could risk complications with the disease?
  • Will the destination require visitors to self-quarantine for 14 days?
  • Are you able to maintain a 6-foot distance between yourself and others during travel?
  • Has someone around you or you showed any symptoms of having COVID-19?

Get your free trial account started on the easy to use JHA Software, JSABuilder, to assist in creating AHAs and JHAs for your employees traveling during the current pandemic. You can also find helpful safety tips by following us on Twitter @JSABuilder.

Refer to State and local government restrictions here. TSA screening changes during COVID-19 here.

More helpful links:

Below is a list of extra steps that each airline is taking for cancelling or changing flights during the pandemic:

Alaska Airlines says tickets bought between Feb. 27, 2020, and April 30, 2020, for travel on or before Feb. 28, 2021, can be rescheduled (now or later) within that same time period. If a flight is canceled, Alaska says it will reschedule passengers to the next available flight. If the change is more than an hour from the original flight, passengers can reschedule or cancel and receive either a credit for future travel or a refund (as long as the passenger didn’t cancel before the airline canceled).

American Airlines is waiving change fees for customers who purchase tickets by June 30, 2020, for summer travel through Sept. 30, 2020, though customers must pay the fare difference if the new flight is more expensive. Customers who cancel can apply the money toward a future flight completed by Dec. 31, 2021. Customers who buy a new ticket before May 31, 2020, for travel before May 31, 2020, will also not incur a fee if they reschedule.

British Airways (an AARP member-benefit provider) says that if your flight is canceled, you will receive a voucher that can be used as late as April 30, 2022. Travelers who choose to cancel any existing flights departing through July 31, 2020, also will receive a voucher toward a future flight through April 30, 2022.

Delta is waiving change fees for flights purchased through June 30, 2020.

JetBlue is suspending cancellation and change fees on new bookings made through June 30, 2020, for travel in the next 24 months.

Southwest is allowing passengers who cancel to rebook within the next 24 months or, in some cases, later. You can rebook online by visiting Note that fare differences may apply.

Spirit is allowing customers who “must alter their travel plans” due to COVID-19 to request a credit for the full value of their flight, which must be used within 12 months (including for flights beyond that time frame). To make changes, visit Spirit’s online reservation credit form. If Spirit cancels a flight, you will automatically get a credit; if you want a refund, you need to do so through their site.

United is waiving change fees for tickets booked through June 30, 2020, allowing travelers to apply the funds (now or later) to a flight of equal or lesser value for travel up to 12 months from the original ticket issue date. For tickets issued March 3 through March 31, 2020, customers will be permitted to change free of charge to a flight of equal or lesser value for travel up to 24 months from the original ticket issue date.