We are just four weeks from no mandatory quarantine as Hawaii travel restarts. The new restart date set is October 15, and we have more confidence than before that it will stick, although significant questions remain.
Your concerns from comments.
Claudia says, “Wondering though… if someone doesn’t have their test results back before they fly, and their test comes back positive, wouldn’t that expose others on the flight? So confusing.”
Kathryn conjectured, “So I get pretested, and am negative. I fly to Hawaii on a non-direct flight from my home stopping at an airport where I’m around people and get COVID. Seems like there is still a hole in the system. I don’t think any system is without holes, but if Hawaii thinks this will stop COVID from the mainline, that thought is false. However, I’m glad I can finally plan a visit!”
No “mandatory” test possible without the federal government.
It is our clear understanding that neither the state nor the airlines can make rules requiring mandatory testing before air travel to Hawaii from other states. That falls within the sole purview of the federal government and the FAA. Each state can implement quarantine on arrival for those without test results, but again, they cannot stop others from getting on the plane.
Chances of getting COVID on long flights to Hawaii.
While the idea of sitting near others no longer sounds enjoyable or safe, there have been very few documented cases of catching COVID on flights and it is believed the odds are very small.
Rules and fear have largely curtailed domestic air travel until now. That in spite of the apparent odds being very low. On a flight to Taipei in March, there were 12 symptomatic passengers. When the remaining 300 passengers and crew were tested, however, they were all negative. So while some people have become infected while flying, it appears that the rate of transmission on planes is low. On a flight between London and Vietnam in March, one passenger spread the virus to over a dozen other passengers plus a crew member. That of course took place before the safety protocols now firmly in place, including masks, intensive sanitization, limited movement on planes, and temperature screenings.
The greatest component on-board may be the HEPA hospital quality filters that remove virtually all viruses and replace the cabin air every few minutes.
Meanwhile, various new protocols have been implemented, such as face-coverings for both passengers and crew, which is mandatory on most airlines, temperature screenings, as well as more intensive cabin cleaning and limited movement in the cabin during the flight.
Regarding statistical odds, Arnold Barnett, of MIT, said that chances of a passenger catching the virus on a flight and dying are less than one in 500,000. While not addressing the longer flight times to Hawaii, he indicated that on shorter flights in the US on planes like Boeing 737 and Airbus A320/321, the risk of catching COVID with all seats taken is 1 in 4,300. With middle seats vacant, the odds are 1 in 7,700.
He added, “Most things are more dangerous now than they were before COVID, and aviation is no exception to that… Three things have to go wrong for you to get infected. There has to be a Covid-19 patient on board and they have to be contagious… If there is such a person on your flight, assuming they are wearing a mask, it has to fail to prevent the transmission. They also have to be close enough that there’s a danger you could suffer from the transmission.”
Safety at airports improves.
In addition to your flight to Hawaii, there’s the time spent in security lines and at airport terminals, which may still create closer than safe contact with other people. TSA has increased cleaning and disinfecting equipment and surfaces at all screening checkpoints. Officers wear masks and gloves and practice social distancing. Gloves are changed after each pat-down. Plastic shields are in place at all document checking, bag search, and drop off positions.
Travelers can wear masks during screening, although officers may ask that they be adjusted to prove identity. Travelers now place boarding passes directly on the scanner, then hold them up for inspection. Travelers can carry a container of up to 12 ounces of hand sanitizer on board.
Are you ready to fly again?