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The last few days, I’ve seen several articles about passengers infected with Covid during an 18-hour flight from Dubai to New Zealand. This article was originally published in The New York Times. It details how at least four passengers were infected during the flight. Two of the passengers admitted to not wearing masks, and the infected passengers were seated within two rows of the person believed to be the source of the virus. The plane was only 25% full.
Admittedly, reading about the situation certainly gives me pause about my family’s upcoming flights this year. Are the risks of flying worth the rewards?
Last fall, the Department of Defense concluded that the risk of contracting Covid during a flight is extremely low. This is due to the HEPA filters on planes. The DoD concluded that passengers would need to be on board a plane for 54 hours straight to inhale enough viral particles to catch Covid. Obviously, that wasn’t entirely accurate, as proven by the flight from Dubai to New Zealand.
Let’s get real. Flying on a plane has a certain level of risk. You will likely have to sit next to or near a stranger. Who knows if they are an asymptomatic carrier?
Some passengers don’t wear their masks correctly. I see people all the time wearing masks below their noses. And of course, people can remove their masks to eat and drink.
With flying, the risks aren’t limited to onboard the airplane. Crowds in airports and cramped parking shuttles increase the risk of Covid exposure.
Obviously, the reward is getting somewhere farther away faster than driving. Or, maybe it’s getting somewhere that you can’t get to via car, like the Caribbean islands.
For my family’s upcoming trips, technically we could drive there or choose alternative locations for our trips that are within a shorter driving distance. But, we did that twice last summer. We are ready to get to a new destination.
My family has only flown once so far during the pandemic. Last summer, we flew to Denver to visit my mom who is in a long-term care facility. For the visit, we had to stay outside, wear masks and sit six feet apart. The flight was totally worth the reward. In my opinion, the 2-hour flight was less risky than making the long drive with various hotel stays and rest stops along the way.
My Family’s Risk Tolerance
My family still does some activities that carry risk. But, we try to choose activities that have a lower risk that have a reward that helps our mental and emotional well-being.
So, we will take some flights this year. But, we’re not hopping on any 18-hour flights. Our flights will only be 2-3 hours in length. We won’t need to take off our masks to eat or drink during the flights because they are relatively short. My family is also taking other precautions to make our upcoming trips less risky.
We choose to let our kids participate in outdoor tennis, and when the weather is good we eat on restaurant patios. We sometimes go inside stores with masks on. All of those activities carry a certain risk, albeit low. But, we know the risk, and we do activities within our risk tolerance with the hope to strike a healthy balance between staying safe and staying sane.
Have the recent articles about Covid transmission on planes changed your decision to fly?
Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.
Nancy lives near Dallas, Texas, with her husband and three kids. Her favorite vacations include the beach, cruising and everything Disney.