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Andrea drever
By Andrea Drever

Content and Editorial Director

Who could have guessed we’d feel safer on an airplane than we do waiting to board our flight? If you’re like a lot of people these days, you view airports as teeming petri dishes, a primordial soup waiting to slosh and spew all over you.

And you’re right to be concerned. When it comes to contracting COVID-19, and other diseases, scientists say airports are more dangerous than airplanes. So, how do you keep your family and yourself safe? Here are a few ideas.

Don’t Rely on Airports’ Disinfection Protocols
Hazmat-suited cleaning crews and disinfecting robots can instill a false sense of security. Protect yourselves while in the airport by adhering to the most stringent guidelines of masking, hand sanitizing and physical distancing. Assume every surface, and person, is infected.

See How Your Airport Scores Safety-Wise
Check the Safe Travel Barometer website. It grades airports based on COVID-19 safety protocols, traveler convenience, customer service and traveler experience, and it awards each a score ranging from 1 to 5. The specific criteria include the availability of contactless check in and baggage drop, on-site testing and whether travelers and employees wear masks.

Discover How Many Airport Employees Have Tested Positive
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) publishes a list of airports that shows how many employees have tested positive at each one. If its agents are showing up to work with an infection, that might be a sign to be extra vigilant.

Keep Your Hands to Yourself
Limit contact with frequently touched surfaces, like handrails, elevator buttons, kiosks and armrests. If you must touch these surfaces, use hand sanitizer and/or wash your hands afterward.

See the Signs
Keep your eyes peeled for signage that describes the cleaning procedures in detail. It might include the process or the type of cleaners used. A two-step process with soap and water, followed by disinfectants, is ideal. Staff should be making the rounds and cleaning frequently throughout the workday. Surfaces should appear visibly clean.

Beware of the Bins
Personal items such as keys, wallets and phones should be placed in carry-on bags instead of bins. This reduces the handling of these items during screening, and keeps them from touching the surface of the bins. (The TSA and Delta Air Lines have rolled out bins made of bacteria-resistant material at some of the airline’s hubs, but they aren’t available everywhere.) Food items, however, should be transported in a plastic bag and placed in a bin for screening. Separating food from carry-on bags lessens the likelihood that screeners will need to open bags for inspection.

Take a Bathroom Break Before You Board
Try to use the restroom before boarding. That way, you might be able to avoid the more cramped quarters of the plane’s lavatory, where you could be exposed to the germs of previous occupants. And don’t remove your mask once you’re behind the door because germs can linger in the air.

Limit Your Time in the Terminal
Do your best to minimize the amount of time you're in the terminal, and in airport lounges, and stay away from other passengers. And try and avoid layovers. It’s the amount of time you spend inside the airport before and after the flight that is most critical.

Though it’s not possible to protect yourself completely, by being extra vigilant you can reduce the risks of traveling without avoiding airports altogether.

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