A Personal Account of Intercontinental Travel During a Pandemic


After experiencing the pros and cons of international travel during the COVID-19 pandemic, flying from the US back to my home in Italy, here are some tips and suggestions based on my experience to help you get through each stage of flying abroad with the lowest risk of infection.

Preparing for the trip

With clothing always playing a crucial role on the comfortability of long and short haul flights, this has now taken on new heightened importance given the nature of coronavirus. Whilst many people will still prefer to remain wrapped up in their favourite onesie, a face mask should now also be a part of the attire to help reduce the chances of infection. In order to keep physical contact down, it can be a great idea to download airline companion apps, allowing you to minimise the number of times you need to hand over paper documents or touch airport screens to check-in. On top of this, bringing your own food and drink can also put you ahead of everyone else, with only a select number of airlines offering onboard meals. Just make sure this is in a sealed clear plastic bag so security inspectors will not need to open your bags for closer inspection.

At the Airport

A silver lining of travelling during the pandemic is that limitations on flights have provided ample room in airports for social distancing to take place. Where possible, make sure to use hand sanitiser stations and follow floor markings that clearly highlight the acceptable distance between those queuing to get on flights or use restrooms, etc. To reduce contact with other individuals, you no longer need to give the security agent your boarding pass, rather you will now need to scan your boarding pass and passport yourself. You can expect to be boarded in a group of 3 to 10 people, starting from the last row to minimise contact.


Cleaning has increased both on flights and at airports, so you can be assured that your seat will have been disinfected from the previous flight before you board. With this being said, it can be wise to remain wary of high touch areas. The face mask you prepared with you must now remain on for the duration of the flight, only being taken off for eating and drinking. For peace of mind, cabins use High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters which capture 99% of airborne microbes, further reducing the risk of infection and allowing you to feel safe throughout your flight. In terms of seating, the best places are those at the windows, allowing for the furthest distance possible between you and those that are traversing the aisles.

Should I fly at all?

With all the measures being taken both by airlines and governments, I personally felt safe flying during the pandemic with social distancing being maintained and enforced efficiently. It should be kept in mind though that middle seats on aircraft are now being filled once more, and so there is a marked increase in the chance of infection. With this being said, when compared with those places we visit on a day to day basis, airports possess a far lower chance of infection than supermarkets, pubs, and socialising areas.


I am a Italian Physicist who crossed the English Channel to pursue a PhD in Engineering. During this journey, I brought along with me my love for reading, for science, philosophy and my fascination for travel, which you will find scattered throughout my articles. You can follow me on Instagram as @physicist_rick

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