Is it really safe to fly during a pandemic?


SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News) – More people will be flying for Thanksgiving, but we won’t be seeing a record number of crowds coming to Utah because of the pandemic.

“We have taken this very seriously since day one,” says Nancy Volmer with Salt Lake City International Airport. “We want to make sure that they feel confident that when they are flying through the airport that we have done everything we can to make sure that they are safe.”

The airport expects fewer passengers who typically come for the holidays and the ski and snowboarding season.

“We had about 30,000 passengers coming through the front door. Now we see about 10,000,” she says.

University of Utah Health doctors say there are some documented cases of COVID-19 transmission on airplanes.

“Airplanes are safer than we thought. There have been cases of transmission on airplanes. They have mostly been very long-haul flights where people were not wearing masks consistently,” says U of U Health‘s Dr. Andrew Pavia. “But, in medium-haul flights, particularly with empty middle rows, everyone wearing masks consistently, transmission seems to very uncommon. And, airplanes have very good exchanges and filters onboard but everything else about air travel puts you at risk.”

Signs for passengers

Dr. Pavia tells ABC4 that people should really be thinking about the process of lining up to get on a plane, deplaning, and crowded gate areas. Those are the spots where the virus can spread, so keep your distance from others.

On Thursday, ABC4 News spotted hand sanitizer is placed throughout the airport for folks to use. Physical distancing marks are on the ground so that passengers can space out, and there is signage on seating to help reinforce that message.

SLC International

“Also in the restaurants, they have tables that are arranged now so that people can sit further apart,” Volmer adds. “I think the airport is doing what we can, but I think the passengers need to do their part to including wearing masks.”

If you are planning on flying out for the holidays, give yourself an extra two hours to get through TSA and get to your gate. Being a brand new airport, it’s a lot bigger and can take you more time to get there.

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