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Air Travel In The COVID-19 Era

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BIG PICTURE

Numbers: As of May 4, the number of U.S. passengers dropped 93% vs. last year.  

Perspective: Last April, on average, 2M+ traveled by plane every day in America. This April: just under 110,000 per day.

Developments: At least 5 major U.S. airlines require passengers to wear face masks.

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Why It Matters

Sustained economic loss due to a drop in travel. It’s not just about the airlines, but everything related: hotels, restaurants, tourist sites, shopping, and beyond.

One industry group says the economic impact of COVID-19 (in dollars) on the travel industry overall will be 9 times worse than the aftermath of September 11th.

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What The CDC Says

Avoid all non-essential travel.

CDC: “Because of how air circulates & is filtered on airplanes, most viruses and other germs do not spread easily on flights.” 

However, the CDC emphasizes crowded flights with infected travelers may heighten your risk of contracting and spreading the new coronavirus.

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“There’s no magic formula.”

Harvard global health professor Ashish Jha on when people will feel comfortable traveling again. Delta's CEO recently commented about the idea of using "immunity passports" - a document or card showing a passenger had exposure to the virus and therefore has some immunity (although that's yet to be scientifically proven). A form of these "passports" have been used in China and Chile. However, questions remain about the reliability of COVID-19 antibody testing.
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“Too hard to tell at this point… I hope down the road it is, but our priority is opening up the domestic economy. Obviously, for business people that do need to travel, there will be travel on a limited basis. But this is a great time for people to explore America.”

Treasury Sec. Steven Mnuchin when asked whether international travel will open up this year for Americans. Airlines have started cutting international flights.
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INNOVATIONS?

The Dreaded Middle Seat: Squeezing in like sardines might be a thing of the past *for now* as airlines look to create more space between passengers.

More Screening: A Seattle airport is utilizing thermal imaging cameras to detect fevers among potential passengers. There’s some discussion about health screening at security checkpoints, but the TSA says it’s TBD.

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The U.S. has issued a level 3 travel notice, warning of widespread ongoing COVID-19 transmission, and potential refusal of entry or quarantine upon return to the United States for EVERY country on the planet. See the map for yourself on our source page.

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Sources

CDC TRAVEL MAP: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/map-and-travel-notices.html

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