Many of us are wondering when we will once again be able to fly, but more important, how will air travel have changed? I did a little digging, because I have questions, and now have a few answers.
Do I need to be vaccinated before I can fly? The World Health Organization (WHO), is currently exploring how the common vaccination record could be done electronically. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has plans for an electronic certificate of their own. The Travel Pass app, which is expected to launch in March, will enable passengers to create a ‘digital passport’ and receive test and vaccination certificates, which will verify they are allowed to travel. Passengers can also share test results or vaccination certificates with airlines and other authorities. From a privacy perspective, no verification will go to an airline or a government without the authorization of the traveller.
Should I disinfect when I travel? Headrests have the most germs of any surface on airplanes. Skin cells and bacteria from your head, coat, or hat are transferred to the headrest. Regarding aisle seats, people will often place their hands on the headrest to balance themselves. Think about the kinds of things you put into a seat-back pocket. Banana peels, old water bottles, used tissues, basically any trash you don’t want to hold in your hand, ends up in a seat-back pocket. Amazingly, the tray tables on planes carry nearly 10 times as much bacteria as the lavatory flush button. Luckily, they are very easy to wipe down. After wiping down your tray table, give the overhead air vent some attention. Passengers are constantly reaching up to adjust the airflow and temperature, and like any vent, they can get incredibly dusty. Everyone touches the seat belt buckle several times during a flight, so it makes sense, it picks up bacteria. The same goes for the lavatory lock. Every time you touch one, you need to wash your hands or use the sanitizer. Especially, since almost 20 percent of passengers don’t wash their hands after using the bathroom.
Can the air on airplanes make me sick? Airplanes suffer from ‘fume events’. This is when heated jet engine oil leaks into the air supply, releasing toxic gases into the cabin of the plane. The airline themselves and industry regulators, have been aware of these incidents for decades, but say they are rare and pose no immediate health risk to crew or passengers. However, it has been discovered, vapours from oil and other mechanical fluids seeped into cabins with regularity, across all airlines. These ‘fume events’ have resulted in breathing troubles for all persons on board, from passengers to flight attendants and pilots. Pilots have reportedly had to use oxygen masks in some events. All in all, things will get back to normal, but taking simple precautions will become a new way of life.
Jonathan van Bilsen is a television host, award winning photographer, published author, columnist and keynote speaker. Watch his show, ‘Jonathan van Bilsen’s photosNtravel’, on Rogers TV, the Standard Website or YouTube.