With COVID-19 cases spiking, Dr. Fauci and other public health officials have encouraged people to postpone travel as much as possible, and to avoid large gatherings for the holidays. If you do need to travel this holiday season, there are things you can do to stay safe. This week, TSA urged travelers to enroll in TSA PreCheck to minimize touch points and move through security faster.
“Obtaining TSA PreCheck is something that each traveler can do to make the checkpoint experience even more efficient, eliminating several contact points, which in most cases, includes the need for a bin,” said TSA administrator David Pekoske.
In this post, we will break down how TSA PreCheck can minimize COVID-19 spread in airports, how you can sign up, and other tips for minimizing your risk while traveling. If you want to pre-enroll for TSA PreCheck, you can in less than 5 minutes on our free Skip app in the App Store or Google Play. We're the only app that makes it easy to quickly pre-enroll in TSA PreCheck.
How Does TSA PreCheck Keep You Safer in the Airport?
TSA PreCheck was originally envisioned to minimize the time frequent travelers spent in security lines for convenience. But during the pandemic, it has also been a key way for travelers to minimize their COVID-19 exposure in the airport.
TSA PreCheck travelers can leave on their shoes, belts, and jackets, and their electronics and liquids can remain in their bags. These rules negate the need to use a bin when going through security, removing a touchpoint in the airport. Security bins, even though they're cleaned regularly, are the most common vectors for germs in the entire airport, since everyone has to go through security.
People with TSA PreCheck also spend less time in security lines—on average, PreCheck travelers spend 5 minutes or less in line. This minimizes their exposure amongst other passengers.
How Do You Enroll in TSA PreCheck?
Enrolling in TSA PreCheck requires filling out a form and doing an in-person visit. You will fill out an online application, and then attend a short in-person appointment at the airport or an enrollment center. You can find the form on the TSA website or you can use our quick enrollment form on the Skip App on the main screen.
Skip will book you an in-person appointment. At your appointment, you will be fingerprinted and pay an $85 fee for five years of TSA PreCheck membership.
Several weeks after your appointment, you will receive a Known Traveler Number, which is your proof of membership in TSA PreCheck. You’ll provide this number when booking flights so you get PreCheck privileges in the airport.
While there is an increase in holiday demand, we do recommend enrolling as soon as possible to get your Known Traveler Number (KTN).
What Else Can You Do to Stay Safe While Traveling?
The largest risk of traveling by air is not the plane itself, but the airport, according to airline experts that we've spoken with. Planes have strict air ventilation regulations that airports may not have. TSA PreCheck is one way to limit the risk of getting through the airport to board your plane, but there are other ways to minimize COVID-19 risk while traveling. Here are some tips:
-Bring a mask and face shield: Wearing both a mask and a face shield offers more protection than a mask alone, according to Dr. Fauci. Face shields are a compliment to masks, and should not be worn without a mask unless you have a medical condition that makes it impossible for you to wear a mask.
-Make sure your mask is medical-grade (N95 or surgical) if possible: Cloth masks aren’t as effective at blocking particles as surgical or N95 masks, so if you have access to those, it’s best to bring them. You should switch out N95 and surgical masks after one use, however, as they aren’t reusable. If you use a cloth mask, consider using one with a pocket where you can put a filter for extra protection.
-Travel at off-hours: The less travelers in the airport the better from a COVID-19 perspective. If you can fly on a less busy day or time, you will be safer in the airport. Weekends are busier than weekdays, and flights before 7 AM or after 9 PM tend to be the least crowded.
-Get tested before and after: Knowing your COVID-19 status is important to minimizing spread and keeping communities safe. Get tested as soon before traveling as possible, and upon your return.
-Avoid gatherings while traveling: According to Dr. Fauci, extended families and friends gathering in close proximity over the winter holidays could cause an even higher spike in cases in early 2021. If you can keep your holiday gatherings small or virtual this year, it will be safer for everyone.
-Buy tickets with an airline blocking middle seats or capacity: Although planes are not the highest risk of traveling, planes with lower capacity are definitely safer. Many airlines have stopped blocking middle seats, but some still are. Here are U.S. airlines still blocking middle seats or limiting flight capacity:
- Delta: Delta is blocking middle seats until March, the longest of any U.S. airline.
- JetBlue: JetBlue is limiting flight capacity to 85% and blocking middle seats when possible until January 8th.
- Virgin: Virgin has committed to blocking middle seats whenever possible and spacing passengers out on flights that are not completely booked.
- Alaska: Alaska is blocking middle seats until January 6th.
Conclusion: Take Precautions for Safe Travel
Enrolling in TSA PreCheck, bringing proper personal protective equipment with you on your journey, and traveling at off-hours or with an airline capping flight capacity will all help you to minimize your COVID-19 risk while traveling. If you’re not a TSA PreCheck member yet, consider signing up here via the Skip app. We frequently cover updates on safe travel and travel regulations here on the Skip Blog, so follow along with us for the latest in travel news.