Do I have to cancel my flight? Will recirculated air on an airplane spread the coronavirus? Here’s what you need to know before traveling

Judi LiVigni was due to fly from New York to San Diego last week to visit his brother, who he usually sees only once a year. But on the day of his flight, he chose to cancel his trip due to concerns regarding the coronavirus epidemic. LiVigni, a 51-year-old dietician living on Long Island, had planned a short weekend vacation, but doubts swirled in her mind as new cases of COVID-19 were confirmed on the west coast.

Before his flight, he headed to a pharmacy to collect hand sanitizer and disinfect the wipes for his trip. He decided to ask the pharmacist for advice on whether to travel or not. “He tells me that he canceled his next flight, that’s all I needed to hear,” said LiVigni. “I decided that I didn’t want to be tied to a seat for six hours next to a potentially infected human being.”

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As of Friday, there are now over 100,000 confirmed cases of viruses worldwide. About 72% of people became more concerned about travel during the coronavirus epidemic, according to a survey conducted in late February by the Big 7 Travel travel website. The International Air Transport Association has estimated that the global airline industry could experience a loss of $ 113 billion due to coronavirus-related outages and cancellations.

What about all that air circulating on airplanes?

Traveling by plane does not necessarily increase the risk of contracting a communicable disease more than another type of mass transit, according to the World Health Organization, since ventilation systems on planes use filters to trap bacteria and viruses before the air is recirculated.

“The ventilation speeds provide a total air exchange of 20 to 30 times per hour. Most modern aircraft have recirculation systems, which recycle up to 50% of the cabin air. The recirculated air is generally passed through HEPA filters (high efficiency particle air), of the type used in hospital operating rooms and intensive care units, which trap dust particles, bacteria, fungi and viruses. “

Airplane air is usually recirculated through the type of filters used in ICUs.

“Transmission of infection can occur between passengers seated in the same area of ​​an aircraft, usually due to the infected person coughing or sneezing or to touch,” observed the WHO on its website. “This is no different than any other situation where people are close to each other, such as on a train or bus or in a theater.”

Travelers should still disinfect where they are sitting, wash their hands often, avoid touching their faces and try to stay away from people who cough or sneeze, regardless of where or how they travel. The AAA travel company also recommends that people traveling abroad bring all the necessary documentation including health insurance cards, hand sanitizer and additional doses of medicines.

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Where are you traveling and how do you go?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advised Americans to avoid any non-essential travel to China, Iran, Italy and South Korea due to the large number of cases in those countries. In addition, the CDC advised people traveling to Japan to take additional precautions to stay healthy.

The CDC also suggested to all travelers to reconsider any cruise travel to or within Asia as the epidemic continues. Despite these warnings about international travel, government officials have not provided any guidance that advises people to avoid travel nationwide.

Traveling to a country where the spread of the new coronavirus community exposes you to a high risk of contracting the virus. In addition, health officials in the United States may require people returning from those countries to undergo extensive health screening or self-quarantine for 14 days on their return, as was the case for people returning from parts of mainland China. , including the province of Hubei where the virus probably originated.

Another consideration: do you have a stop in another country as part of your travel itinerary? Other countries have instituted their own bans on people entering their borders due to the outbreak, which could complicate travel arrangements. (Alternatively, direct flight can cost more money.)

Do you have a stop in another country as part of your travel itinerary?

If you feel bad, obviously you shouldn’t travel. There is evidence of the spread of the community in many parts of the United States, which means that people are contracting the virus even if they have not knowingly come into contact with someone who has contracted the virus abroad. Anyone with potential coronavirus symptoms, such as fever, headache or cough, stays at home to avoid potentially spreading the virus, health officials say.

The mortality rate among those with coronavirus varies widely based on age and health. Currently, data related to coronavirus deaths suggest that people over the age of 70 are more likely to have severe symptoms and / or die of disease than young people. Mortality rates are also higher for those with pre-existing conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease, hypertension and cancer.

“It was really difficult for a consumer to understand that it is a level 10 emergency and I should cancel all plans and stay here, or I don’t need to cancel my plans.” Italy is preparing for a decline in tourism due to the outbreak of COVID-19 there.

Getty Images

Not all travelers are canceling the trip. Some are rebooking for later dates or changing where they will go. Kelsey O’Brien, a 28-year-old social media manager and content creator in San Francisco, said that she and her husband have changed the place where they will go on their honeymoon.

The couple got married in late November and had decided to stop on their honeymoon so they could save more money and spend more time planning the trip after the wedding. They had settled for a trip to Italy because of the cheap airfares to Rome.

Consumers should not expect additional compensation for canceled trips

This week, the couple decided instead to go on vacation to Hawaii to avoid the potential complications that could result from an international trip, particularly in a country where there may be a greater outbreak of the virus.

Even with the change of position, O’Brien said he had concerns about how risky it is to travel right now. “It was really difficult for a consumer to understand that this is a level 10 emergency and I should cancel any plans and stay here, or I don’t need to cancel my plans,” said O’Brien. “I try to try from a place of compassion. My journey is not as important as someone else’s health. “

Will you be able to get a refund for your flight?

Many airlines, including United
+ 0.98%

, Delta
+ 1.95%

and JetBlue
+ 0.14%
have waived the fares generally associated with changing or canceling their flight due to the coronavirus epidemic. In general, consumers must have booked directly with the courier and not through a third party website such as Expedia
+ 0.37%

– take advantage of these policies.

However, consumers should not expect additional compensation for canceled trips or in cases where airlines cancel flights due to the epidemic. European law protects travelers on all flights outside the European Union and on flights to the EU on EU-based airlines, allowing them to receive up to $ 700 in compensation per person for flights that are canceled within 14 days after take-off or significantly delayed.

But the law includes a provision that exempts airlines from this requirement if the cancellation was beyond their control. “In the case of the coronavirus, since this is an extraordinary circumstance and the airlines are canceling to protect safety, travelers cannot ask for compensation, but they have the right to obtain a refund for their tickets,” said Christian Nielsen , legal director of AirHelp, an airline passenger defense organization.

See also: Would you like to work remotely to prevent the spread of coronavirus? It is a luxury granted mainly to white-collar workers

Will you be covered by travel insurance?

Although interested travelers may be tempted to purchase a travel insurance policy due to coronavirus right now, this coverage is unlikely to help them if their trip is canceled. “Once an event becomes common knowledge, it is also excluded from travel insurance policies,” according to the Squaremouth travel insurance comparison website. “That’s because insurance companies believe it has a predictable impact on travel.”

Travelers can purchase “cancellation for any reason” travel insurance policies, which would still provide coverage in these circumstances. But these policies must be purchased within 21 days of the first booking and generally cost 40% more than the typical insurance policy, added Squaremouth.

Before embarking on this step, travelers should check with their airline, hotel or tour operator to find out if these airlines have offered refunds or cancellation fees. If you can cancel your reservation for free for a full refund, travel insurance may not be worth the expense.


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