7 Worst Mistakes to Avoid If You Have to Fly Right Now

While staying home is the safest, these are the things you shouldn't do if you absolutely must travel.

Fact: The single worst flying mistake you can make right now? Flying. On Mar. 19, the U.S. Department of State issued a Global Level 4 Health Advisory on all international travel, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is telling all citizens to stay home and practice social distancing to prevent the spread of COVID-19. But in the case that you must travel by plane—for medical reasons or essential work, for instance—there are some things you absolutely should not do. So, read on, and find out the worst mistakes to avoid if you have to fly. And for more ways travel could change in the future, check out the 13 Things You May Never See on Airplanes Again After Coronavirus.

Boarding the plane first

people boarding the plane

Remember the days when you'd fight to be the first in line or even pay extra for priority boarding? Well, times are changing due to the coronavirus, and now, it's actually the safest to be the last passenger. In fact, Delta has even changed its procedures to board flights from back to front, and the airline is asking people to sit at the gate until their row is called to prevent crowding.

"Try to board the plane last, after the line has thinned, so you're not stuck waiting in a tight space with lots of other people as they board," Jonathan Fielding, professor of public health and pediatrics at University of California, Los Angeles, and chair of the U.S. Task Force on Community Preventive Services, told CNBC.

Booking an aisle seat

Airplane aisle

While social distancing measures recommend staying six feet apart, that's pretty hard to do when you're in a cramped cabin. But if you must fly, booking a window seat is the best option as it affords you the most personal space, especially since many carriers—including Delta, American, United, Southwest, and Qantas—have stopped selling middle seats. The aisle, on the other hand, is risky because passengers and flight attendants are constantly walking by, mere inches away.

Eating at the airport

airport food court area

Grabbing a quick bite before your flight isn't the smartest move. Airport food courts attract a serious amount of germs, especially if they have grab-and-go snack stations, salad bars, or other self-serve buffets that could easily be cross-contaminated. The healthiest thing to do is to pack your own meal or just eat at home before you leave.

Using a kiosk

woman checks into her flight on a kiosk

It's never been more important to keep your hands to yourself. This includes avoiding popular touch points like airport kiosks. Instead, it's best to check in online using the airline's app or website, so you can minimize contact with the ticket counter employees or the dirty kiosk screens.

Using a paper ticket

plane tickets in passport

Not many travelers print tickets anymore, but amid coronavirus concerns, even the slowest adopters are likely to go digital. According to a study published by The Lancet, the coronavirus can survive on paper for up to four days. To prevent the spread, scan the mobile ticket on your phone, so the gate attendant doesn't have to touch your paper ticket. And for more surfaces to avoid, check out How Long Coronavirus Lives on Everything You Touch Every Day.

Not sanitizing your seat

man wears a medical mask and wipes his hands with disinfectant

Some folks used to poke fun at the germaphobes who would wipe down the tray tables and arm rests on the plane. But now, it's no laughing matter. Cleaning the space around you is of utmost importance, especially when other passengers were likely sitting in that same spot mere hours before. To help with this, airports have installed hand sanitizer stations in terminals and wipes on jet bridges, and flight crews are handing out additional wipes when you board.

Shopping in the terminals

travelers walk through the duty free shops at an airport

Consider this: How many other people have picked up those gift store items? We'd guess quite a few. And who knows the last time their hands were washed. So if you're distracted by the duty-free retail outlets, resist the temptation to browse through. And for more ways your shopping sprees will change, check out the 7 Things You Won't See at Retail Stores Ever Again After Coronavirus.

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