Health

Federal Face Mask Mandate applies to airplanes

One of the executive orders President Joe Biden signed on his first day in office is a 100-day mask mandate. The rule applies to all federal property, including national parks, airlines, trains, and transit systems that travel between states.

Many travelers and parts of the travel industry are applauding the move. And it looks like we’ll have the new Bernie Sanders-bundled-up-at-the inauguration meme to help us remember to stick with the program.

There’s even an app that will help you put the masked-up Sanders at your favorite airport – or anywhere Google has mapped.

Here here is at Chicago O’Hare and Hartsfield Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

Vote for the airport amenity of the week.

We used to think that putting roulette wheel numbers on the baggage carousel was the coolest thing you could do with that space.

MSP’s new bag claim carousel

But Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (MSP) has done something better.

Instead of the annoying buzzer and flashing light that announces the arrival of bags at some airports, the newly redesigned bag carousels at MSP airport send up the alert with nature sounds and a light show.

We’re making this the first nomination for Airport Amenity of the Week.

Hand washing help

Our second nomination for Airport Amenity of the Week is this high-tech hand-washing station Pittsburgh International Airport (PIT) installed to encourage travelers to wash their hands and “scrub away germs in 12 seconds flat!”

O’Hare Airport’s new Twitter Bio

Pete Buttigieg, who has been named transportation secretary nominee by President-elect Joe Biden, put a spotlight on O’Hare International Airport (ORD) during his formal introduction on Wednesday.

During the event, Buttigieg noted that he proposed to his husband, Chasten, at O’Hare. “Don’t let anybody tell you that O’Hare isn’t romantic,” he said.

Avgeeks know that.

So does United Airlines, which sent out a tweet identifying the engagement gate.

And O’Hare Airport even change its Twitter bio.

It now begins “Place of romance.”

Which would you pick as Airport Amenity of the Week?

MSP’s bag carousel? PIT’s hand washing station? O’Hare’s new status as place of romance?

Let us know in the comments section which of these airport stories you’d pick as Airport Amenity of the Week.

And feel free to nominate an airport amenity for next week’s Airport Amenity of the Week.

Airlines ban passengers who won’t wear masks. Should airports?

(A slightly different version of our story on airport masks policies first appeared on USA TODAY)

Although COVID-19 cases are surging, holiday flight bookings are up.

The uptick in travel is tied to pent-up demand for travel. And to recent studies that say air travel is as safe or safer than many other routine activities on the ground.

Most every airline now requires passengers to wear face coverings and passengers who refuse to comply may find themselves on a carrier’s no-fly list.

But what about airports?

Many groups have been urging the current administration to issue a mask requirement for all commercial travel. But no federal law currently requires passengers to wear face coverings in airports.

Airports in locations that have state or local mask requirements do have the authority to cite, ticket, or, in some cases, eject travelers that fail to comply.

But in most cases, airports report they are instead relying on audio and visual messaging, personal reminders and the airline policies.

Airports around the country are also handing out the more than 86 million face masks delivered over the summer to airports by the U.S Department of Transportation (DOT), the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and other agencies.

At Charlotte Douglas International Airport (CLT) messaging on the public address system reminds passengers that face coverings are required by the governor’s mandate. Reminders of the face-covering requirement also appear on shuttle buses, entrance doors, and throughout the terminal. 

In addition to signage about wearing masks, at Denver International Airport (DEN) all employees are encouraged to politely remind a passenger to wear their mask if it is not on or not on properly.

“We may offer a person a complimentary mask to encourage compliance,” says airport spokesperson Alex Renteria, “If a person acts aggressively, law enforcement may be called. But we have not had an instance where a traveler refused to wear a mask.”

At Los Angeles International Airport, Travel Safety Ambassadors patrol some terminals to remind guests about the airport’s mask policy and hand out free face coverings if needed. 

“We do our best to remind people from the moment they step into the building,” said airport spokesman Heath Montgomery, “But the airlines are the ones with the authority to decline service to those who refuse to comply with face-covering policies.”

Other efforts

Phase 2 of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health’s study on the risks of flying during the COVID-19 pandemic will focus on the curb-to-curb airport journey.

But there is no firm timetable for the release of that phase of the report.

In the meantime, in addition to encouraging passengers to mask up, airports continue to reassure travelers with assertive terminal-wide cleaning procedures, COVID-19 testing services, and other health and safety regimes.

Hawaii bound? Get tested for COVID-19

Hawaii reopens to tourists on October 15. Yay, right?

But the only visitors who will be able to skip the 14-day quarantine rules will be those with proof of testing negative for COVID-19 within 72 hours before they depart the mainland.

Hawaii officials will only accept test results from approved providers.

Here’s information about those testing partners from the Hawaii State Department of Health. The list was posted on 10/13/20 and will likely be updated.

Be sure to check with providers for prices and updated information.

Where to get tested

AFC Urgent Care – COVID-19 tests are available at clinics on the AFC Urgent Care website. Tests available for ages five and older. Schedule in advance to guarantee appointment availability. A printed version of the results is provided prior to leaving the clinic.

Bartell Drugs – Only for Alaska Airlines passengers to Hawaii at select Bartell Drugs locations. Tests available for ages five and older. Appointments are required at least one day in advance. Guaranteed results within 72 hours.

Carbon Health – Tests offered at dedicated sites with results delivered within two hours. Tests available for ages five and older for Alaska Airlines passengers in Seattle only. ($135)

CityHealth Urgent Care – CityHealth Urgent Care offers tests utilizing state-of-the-art Abbott Lab instrumentation for results in 15 minutes. Tests available for ages five and older.  

Color  Tests available for ages five and older for United Airlines passengers going to Hawaii from San Francisco International Airport.

CVS Health – Travelers may schedule an appointment up to two days in advance at select CVS Pharmacy drive-thru locations. Tests available for ages 12 and older. Pre-registration is required. ($139).

Discovery Health MD – Individuals traveling to Hawaii may schedule testing online with same ($329) and next day ($279) results at designated testing sites. Tests available for ages five and older. A limited number of walk-ups can be accommodated.

Kaiser Permanente – Kaiser Permanente members may schedule a test online, or contact the appointment call center or nurse advice line in their home region for scheduling instructions.

Quest Diagnostics – Individuals may order and schedule the company’s COVID-19 Active Infection Test online and select from more than 500 Walmart drive-thru pharmacy locations for a nasal swab test.

Vault Health – At-home tests with real-time audio-visual supervision are available. Tests available for ages five and older. Tests are mailed with accurate results in 72 hours or less.

Walgreens – Drive-thru testing locations available. Appointment required.

COVID-19 Testing Information from Airlines and Airports

If you are heading to Hawaii, your airline will offer information about COVID-19 tests and current requlations.

Here are links to the pre-travel testing requirements for Hawaii travelers and additional information about testing options from airlines – and from Oakland International Airport.

Alaska Airlines 

American Airlines 

Hawaiian Airlines 

Oakland International Airport 

Southwest Airlines

United Airlines 

If you go, send us a postcard.

Cool new COVID-fighting airport amenities

Airports are rolling out new COVID-fighting amenities faster than we can keep up with them.

Here are few I’ll be talking about this week during the virtual Travel 2021 Summit taking place on October 7 and 8.

We’ll be talking about airports and airlines on Thursday at 10 a.m. east coast time.

The line-up includes lots of experts talking about what’s going in travel now – and what might happen in the near future. Registration is free.

Use your toes in the elevators at Tucson International Airport

At Tucson International Airport (TUS), elevators are now touch-free. Thanks to the addition of toe tap buttons.

Free gadget cleaning at Toronto Pearson International Airport

It looks like a copy machine. But if you put your gadgets in these machines at Toronto Pearson International Airport (YYZ) they will get zapped by a UV-C light that destroys novel coronavirus cells.

24-hour kiosk stocked with essentials at Edmonton Int’l Airport

This self-serve Rexall Drug Store machine at Edmonton International Airport (EIA) has 85 different items.

Long Beach Airport wants you back

Long Beach Airport (LGB) has a new video out to remind travelers that they’ve got outdoor concourses and other amenities that are reassuring for travelers.