Health

Now wearing a mask at the airport is the law

Now masking up at the airport is a law. So get with the program.

Most airports and airlines have been requiring travelers to wear proper face masks while traveling through the terminals and on the planes for months. But enforcing the rule has been difficult at times because there was no federal backing. Now, finally, there is. Effective February 2, a new CDC order requires masks to be worn at all U.S. airports and on other forms of transportation.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) will be helping to enforce this new law at security checkpoints and other places in the airport. And their staff is authorized to impose fines for mask scofflaws if need be:

Depending on the circumstance, those who refuse to wear a mask may be subject to a civil penalty for attempting to circumvent screening requirements, interfering with screening personnel, or a combination of those offenses,” TSA said in a statement.

A moment with Minute Suites

Many airport services and amenities are not back at full power yet. And some may never be. And we have been wondering what’s up with Minute Suites, the company that rents out private rooms in some airports where travelers can sleep, rest, or get some work done during layovers.

The suites include a daybed sofa that turns into a bed, sound masking, a thermostat, a workstation, Wi-Fi, Netflix, and DIRECTV. Travelers can book a suite on the app or in person. And travel essentials are sold at the front desk.

The company did shut down temporarily during spring/early summer 2020. But it has now reopened in all its previous airport locations, including Atlanta, Charlotte Douglas, Dallas-Fort Worth, LaGuardia, and Philadelphia. Since October 2020, the company has even added new locations in the Baltimore and Nashville airports. And they have also signed ten more leases for additional airport locations.

“We were fortunate that American Airlines chose to consolidate much of their traffic through DFW and Charlotte and we re-opened our facilities there during the summer,” said Minute Suites co-founder and director of development Daniel Solomon. “Travelers valued our service for natural social distancing and as a safe place to relax and unmask.”

Are the suites santized?

Cleaning the rooms between guests was important before the pandemic, of course, but now the sanitation protocols are, of course, even more important. “[We] have employed a medical-grade cleaning protocol after each guest for over a decade,” says Solomon, “It features a disinfectant agent that is EPA-certified to kill COVID-19.” (More about the cleaning systems here.)

Now that more people are traveling, Minute Suites is reporting healthy recovery numbers in part because passengers are realizing that inside the suites is one of the few places in the airport where they can safely take off their masks, eat a take-out meal, work, rest, or nap.

What is the cost?

Minute Suites rent for $45 for the first hour (the minimum). After that, rates are charged in 15-minute increments. Right now, though, you are likely to be offered a 25% discount. As a nice gesture, Minute Suites has always offered nursing and pumping mothers a 30-minute free stay.

Travelers who have Priority Pass memberships (or credit cards with that beneift) get the first hour at Minute Suites sites free and a discounted per hour rate after that. A Minute Suites spokesperson says they are seeing a lot of Priority Pass usage right now.

Travel Tidbits: Testing, Festivals, and More

COVID-19 testing required for international travel – and maybe domestic travel too.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now requires that all travelers flying to the United States from abroad show proof of a negative COVID-19 test before boarding their flight.

The new rule went into effect on January 26. And in addition to the pre-flight test, CDC is also recommending that anyone arriving in the U.S. be tested 3-5 days after travel and stay home to self-quarantine for 7 days after travel. Or self-quarantine for 10 days if they don’t get a test.

Airlines, hotels, and airports are rushing to help travelers comply with this new travel requirement.

United Airlines, for example, rolled out is “Travel-Ready Center.” This digital site lets passengers review COVID-19 entry requirements, find local testing sites, and upload required testing and vaccination records for both international and domestic travel.

The new ruling is quite rigorous for international travel. And on Tuesday it was reported that the Biden administration is “actively looking” at expanding mandatory COVID-19 testing to travelers on U.S. domestic flights.

We’ll see if that extra layer of testing become reality. But in the meantime, if you do plan to travel soon it will be good to brush up on the current rulings.

Another airline bans emotional support animals

Southwest Airlines announced that as of March 1, 2021 emotional support animals will be banned from flights.

Starting that day, Southwest will only accept dogs that are trained service animals. The airline will still allow pets to fly in the cabin, but only if they are vaccinated domestic cats or dogs in an appropriate pet carrier. And if they have a ticket. Fares are $95 each way per pet carrier.

Southwest joins all other major airlines in making this ruling. Alaska Airlines, Delta Air Lines, American Airlines, Frontier, JetBlue, Hawaiian Airlines, and United Airlines have already put their “no emotional support animals” policy in force.

Festivals rebooked for real

Dare we hope?

While many annual events around the country and the world are being postponed or canceled for yet another year, some are going forward.

In New Orleans, the Jazz & Heritage Festival that was canceled last spring is now scheduled for October 8-17. And the French Quarter Festival is now planned to take place September 30-October 3.

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.