Pandemiquette: How To Social Distance on Airplanes | Golden Rules Gal

May, 11, 2020

Never in my wildest dreams (and I dream a lot), could I have imagined a world with masks and other personal protective equipment. When my 2009 book “A Traveler’s Passport To Etiquette” was published, life had changed since 9/11, but this pandemic has drastically changed our daily lives and routines.

Today marks nine weeks of shelter-in-place.  Family duty called, so I had to move my shelter-in-place to another state.  While I wasn’t nervous about flying, I wasn’t looking forward to being “over” exposed after enjoying safety in my own home.  Luckily, I was moving into someone’s guest house as in all by myself. #whatarelief.

10 Tips On How to Social Distance on Airplanes

  1. Prepare.  Move your home Covid-19 emergency kit to the airplane with ample alcohol based wipes, gloves, and masks for onboard your flight, and also for when you reach your destination. Don’t rely on supplies being available where you’re going, and leave your mask on the entire flight.  Airlines require face masks, and some go as far as to provide them for passengers.
  2. Clothing.  Protect every inch of yourself – skip the shorts and sandals.  My inflight clothes get washed when I arrive, and then I wear the same outfit on my flight home to save on space.  As for the shoes, only the best:  my Covid crocs with socks.  You heard me.
  3. Seat Assignments.  Don’t be surprised if your seat assignment changes multiple times – mine did four times in two hours!  There were only 10 people on my flight of 80. In order to meet the social distance requirements, passengers were spread out far and wide like a checkerboard. 
  4. Security.  Your mask will have to be removed temporarily for identification purposes. The lunch I brought to the airport (a vegetarian burrito) had to be x-rayed for sharp objects. Although it passed with flying colors, I dumped it without a bite as too many gloves (not mine) touched the wrapping.
  5. Tray Tables.  Pretend they don’t exist.  A big clue is the DO NOT USE sign glued to them.  They must remain in the upright locked position.
  6. BYOB.  For safety reasons, there’s no food or beverage service on board, so bring your own or eat before you fly. My flight was domestic, but it will be interesting to see how this will affect international flights.
    1. Entertainment.  Gone are seat pocket magazines with the exception of the Passenger Safety Card, always an interesting read.  Bring your own reading material, but be careful where you place it after reading.

    2. Protect.  I’m a big fan of bandanas, but scarves work the same magic:  for face masks, on the head, around the shoulders, or in my case as a placemat for my laptop or food. Even though I wiped down my seat and armrests more than once, I wasn’t taking any chances.

    3. Carry On Luggage.  Fill it with only essentials that fit under your seat or in the overhead bin, such as your wallet, pills, jewelry, electronics and more PPE. If you’re checking bags, these items always stay on your person in case they’re lost or stolen.
    4. Patience.   My maiden voyage was painless, but once travel begins to open up across the country, chaos may be the temporary norm.  Use caution with those around you, and take a deep breath of patience. New rules of onboard etiquette will require excess awareness and tolerance.


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