TSA has witnessed about 2,000,000 daily travelers pass through their checkpoints these past weeks. However, the rebound in travel is having a demoralizing side effect. The US airports are busy and chaotic. There have been headlines about bad behavior due to mask mandates and delays caused by staff shortages. Many passengers have experienced smaller problems, such as difficulty finding an Uber or open shop at the airport.
In spite of the news about airport problems, I finally joined the crowd and flew my 16th month-old first flight. It was from Newark Liberty International Airport, to El Paso International. Without any direct flight options, I gave myself ample time to transfer at what I knew was the nation’s busiest airport–Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International. I managed to get away from some of the crowds on the outbound flight. But the return flight was another story. My transfer occurred at 7pm, which was prime meal time. However, McDonald’s was the only fast-food vendor in the wing. There was a long line that stretched into the terminal. Just in time for a bag of crackers and a soda, I stumbled upon the last remaining gift shop open. The local newspaper published a report stating that one third of ATL’s restaurants had closed down days later.
Here are some things you should know if you’ve not flown for a while but want to start flying again. Note: The Delta variant is rapidly spreading across the US. Before making any travel plans, make sure you are up-to-date with the most recent information.
How do I get on a plane?
You don’t need any additional documents if you travel domestically. All that is required in the US right now are your regular government ID and your boarding pass. These can usually be downloaded digitally on your smartphone. According to the CDC, vaccinated travelers will be asked to monitor their symptoms for signs and get a virus test within three to five days of travel. Unvaccinated travellers can get a second three to five-day follow up and quarantine for seven days.
Travelers who are traveling abroad should check the US State Department site for specific information. Some countries may need recent results or vaccination records, and others might require a form for health declaration. The Delta Discover Map can be used to find out what you need. Although there’s no federal requirement to inspect COVID-19-related documents at departure, most airlines do so in order to ensure that passengers are safe and secure upon their arrival. Delta, for example, checks documentation at check-in as well as the gate. United Passenger can pre-register via VeriFLY and via Travel-Ready Center.
No matter from where you are coming from, you must show evidence of proof that you have had a negative COVID-19 virus test within the last three days. You may have other requirements specific to your state. Make sure you check the most current information.
You will need to quickly find your way through airport security. The TSA will scan the passport and ID before you board the plane. You can keep these items in the zipped pockets on a jacket or in a wallet.
You should keep track of the state department and airline websites to make sure you don’t need any additional documents.
What is the best way to check for airline specific requirements?
What time do you need to be there?
Experts recommend that international travelers arrive to the airport at least two hours prior to domestic flights, and three hours earlier for international flights. These times can be padded during periods of heavy travel like holidays or weekends.
Christopher R. Bidwell (North American Senior Vice President of Security at Airports Council International), tells Lonely Planet that despite many airports investing in contactless technology things might take longer. TSA staff have increased their security personnel and there has been a longer wait at the checkpoints due to the rise in travel.
What can I do to maintain my social distance even when there are many people at the airport?
Ranjan Goswami, Delta’s senior vice-president of customer experience tells Lonely Planet that maintaining social distance at airports can be difficult as more customers return to fly. You can still do your bit by leaving room between customers who are in front of you. To remind passengers to leave extra space, many airports still have floor markings and signage.
It doesn’t matter if you are at security, check-in, or boarding gate. The best thing to do is get ahead of it. Bidwell recommends that you check in online before going through the first steps. Many airlines have kiosks that can speed up baggage check. You can use the app to navigate through the airports even faster by downloading the airline’s application. Delta recommends booking Saturdays as the best day to book, because this is the one with the fewest travelers.
Are TSA Checkpoints Changing Post-Pandemic?
Although the lines are longer now, it is still fairly simple. There are two major changes: passengers will be required to identify themselves briefly and can carry one liquid hand sanitizer bottle up to 12 ounces. Each passenger also has the usual quart-sized bags of 3.4-ounce liquids.
Credential Authentication Technology is now available at many airport checkpoints. Bidwell states that travelers might be required to enter their driver’s licence into the CAT unit in order to provide contactless processing. TSA has deployed scanners at checkpoints in order to scan barcodes on paper and electronic boarding passes (using their smartphone).
Bidwell suggests that you keep everything in your pockets except jewelry and metallic objects in carry-on bags. You should also be prepared to take off shoes and put them in the trash can.
TSA PreCheck is a great way to get through security quickly. Bidwell adds that PreCheck passengers waited no more than five minutes in April 2021. After you register, you will receive a known traveler number that must be used in each booking.
Goswami suggests CLEAR depending on how often you travel. This allows for quick entry to select airports with the flick of your eye or touch of a finger.
What can I do to ensure safety on flights?
The flight procedures include many safety precautions. Every passenger on Delta flight is given a Purell wiping device upon arrival. All sales made at the airport are also done using contactless payments. If you have any questions, please don’t be afraid to ask.
Goswami told Lonely Planet that he believes it is important to feel comfortable speaking with flight attendants and raising any concerns or questions with them.
What can I do to ensure that I have a taxi ride from and to the airport?
Lyft spokeswoman tells Lonely Planet that “earlier this spring, when vaccines were rolled out, people started to move again, and we began seeing the demand for rides exceed the availability of drivers.” We’ve hired thousands more drivers over the last few weeks, which is already resulting in a more pleasant rider experience. Wait times have dropped more than 15% nationally and 35% in major markets.
Uber is also working hard to improve the availability of driver-operators. Lonely Planet is advised by a spokesperson to reserve rides as early as 30 days in advance with Uber Reserve and Schedule a Ride. You can also check the app to see live ETAs 20 minutes prior to your departure to get a gauge of the time. You can also ride with your friends and add a pickup to the trip, or consider other alternatives like Uber Rent for cars rentals.
And what else?
The restrictions that will be in place as the pandemic progresses, will change, but always keeping the safety of travelers in mind. While unexpected situations can occur, experts recommend that travelers pack patience.
Publited at Mon 26 July 2021, 17:32:32 +0000