Preparation for flying?

I think this is the worst time to be flying and have no plans to fly.  However, the other day a question arose in my mind, “What if I had to?  How would I prepare?”

If you were to fly on an airplane, what would you bring with you?

My first thought was that I would want excellent respirator and eye protection.  It would need to be comfortable for a long flight (which is inherently uncomfortable to begin with).  I would need to feel confident that nothing would slip off of my face by accident.  This line of thinking made me want a full mask [1].

Then I thought, what about drinking water?  The Aerospace Medical Association recommends drinking 8 ounces of water each hour flying because the humidity in the cabin is low (20%) [2].  I would want to be able to drink without taking off my mask, so that steered me to a gas mask with a drinking tube such as the Avon C50 [1].

I know that wearing a N95 with an exhalation port is illegal in San Francisco, for example [3].  Does this apply to airplanes as well and do gas masks have exhalation ports?

What about the social impact?  I usually try to keep a low profile while travelling, especially to other countries, to minimize being targeted for crime while I’m outside of my home environment.  Wearing a gas mask would draw a LOT of attention to me.

I appreciate your thoughts.

[1] https://theprepared.com/gear/reviews/best-gas-mask-respirator-survival/

[2] https://www.asma.org/asma/media/asma/Travel-Publications/HEALTH-TIPS-FOR-AIRLINE-TRAVEL-Trifold-2013.pdf

[3] https://sf.gov/information/masks-and-face-coverings-coronavirus-pandemic


  • Comments (19)

    • 8

      Not sure I can envision a situation where I’d “have to” fly in the foreseeable future, even to attend funeral of a family member/etc.

      However, Erin Bromage (of “The Risks: Know Them, Avoid Them” fame) has a blog post on flying, and she does an excellent job of breaking down the various pieces of that risk assessment exercise when she flew earlier in the spring. Spoiler: she didn’t wear a mask.


      My brother in law is an engineer in a major national airline’s machine shop. The company’s policy is to investigate potential issues as little as possible: that they would rather not know the full extent of damage inside a jet engine, so that they aren’t legally obligated to spend money fixing it to meet code. That’s right: they would rather let broken engines go undetected than pay more to fix them. So forgive me for sounding cynical, but I don’t trust the airline industry to be forthcoming at all about potential COVID risks in flying, especially when they are bleeding to death in the current crisis.

      • 7

        That’s disturbing about the airline practices. To echo, I took a local course with a guy who worked as a mechanic at the local intl airport, and he was saying the same thing, most notably he said he “would never fly the budget airlines.”

      • 8

        Guess what the industry term is to describe jet-engine fan blades that deteriorate and break off during flight?

        a) breaking during the course of use

        b) expected wear and tear

        c) uh oh

        d) liberating material


        yeah, it’s d.

      • 7

        Oof, that story about the machine shop is disquieting!  It could be straight out of Fight Club.

    • 11

      I just flew outbound on Sunday from LAX to Salt Lake City to Great Falls

      then inbound on Wednesday from Great Falls to Salt Lake City to Seattle back to Los Angeles.

      Honestly I’d say avoid traveling if you can. I opted for an N95 mask without the valve. It was the real thing since it came from my earthquake kit that I put together 10+ years ago. I wore it as much as possible, but I took it off both in flight and in the terminals to eat/drink, or scratch an itch.

      I was very tired on this trip so I dozed off multiple times. At least 3 times I woke up feeling like I was suffocating because of the mask. It’s a pretty disturbing feeling.

      For several years I’ve been wiping down my entire seating area with Clorox wipes and I continued to do it on this trip. I also used antibacterial gel before I touched my face.
      As part of the security screening you need to remove your mask to show your face. Just FYI.
      For the most part people were doing a good job of being careful. There were some questionable face coverings but these were the exception not the rule. Seattle had the most hard core PPE. Multiple families were using masks + face shields. One guy had a full hazmat suit without the head cover.

      I flew Delta. The middle row was empty. They boarded back to front. When they passed out snacks they included the food and a small water bottle in a ziplock bag. So the flight attendant only touched the bags. They also provided a handy wipe when boarding.
      Overall it was about as good as could be expected but I still wouldn’t recommend traveling if you don’t need to.  But I’ll need to make the trip again in a few weeks and I’m not sure what more I can do.

      • 6

        Helpful story, thank you!

    • 7

      It does seem like the only real way to avoid breaking the face seal yet still being able to drink is a full mask with a drinking tube.

      I’m taking covid seriously, but if I were on a plane, I don’t know that the potential value of a drinking tube is worth the potential extra downside of having more surface area of mask on skin that could irritate over hours. Personally, I think I might fidget more with a full mask than a half mask.

      If the talk about the ‘rona being airborne proves true, though, then I would be more worried about it blowing into my eyes, so then the math might tilt back in favor of a full mask.

      Even if you do a full mask though, you could still go half mask when you’re at your destination so you’re not walking around with a full mask. Seems like a full mask outside of the travel context would be overkill.

      Other things:

      • Bring my own food and drink so I don’t have to make contact with anyone. I hate when flight attendants hand you your plastic up by holding the drinking rim with their fingers. So gross.
      • I would have multiple pairs of gloves for those times I needed to touch something but couldn’t depend on quick-follow hand cleaning.
      • Copies of insurance info in case I get sick out of town.
      • More cash than normal.
      • If I were checking a bag, I’d add some extra stuff I normally wouldn’t, like a multitool, just in case things get bad while I’m away.
      • 7

        > … you could still go half mask when you’re at your destination so you’re not walking around with a full mask.

        Good idea!

    • 7

      I’ve been wiping down the armrest and table top at my seat for years, too. Happy to meet another hygienic traveler! Hopefully it becomes more common and I don’t get as many weird looks. (I’ll clean anyway, just would be better without the side-eyes.)

      • 7

        I saw an episode of Undercover Boss and they were supposed to clean a whole airplane in 6 minutes. I realized if the person who sat in my seat before me was sick then there’s no way anyone would be able to disinfect the seat in such a short time. I’m not a germaphobe but I really don’t like the idea of getting sick while traveling so I started wiping down my seat area.
        Yeah I’m sure I got looks in the past but now I’m vindicated.

      • 6

        Fist-bump from yet another hygienic traveler! I’ve been a seat-cleaner for years as well, with my little travel pack of Lysol wipes.  On several occasions I’ve had a flight attendant give me side-eye and then mutter, “Good idea.”

    • 9

      I have flown twice in the last 30 days, including a round trip to Los Angeles this past weekend.

      Here are some of my thoughts in case they help you.


    • 5

      I’ve flown on Southworst and Alaska over the last few months. The middle’s remain empty, flights range from half full to totally full (minus the middles). I believe that’s going away on a carrier by carrier basis.

      Everyone’s wearing a mask but few people are wearing gloves, hoodies, goggles or using wipes. The masks are mostly cheap made in china kind, I didn’t see many N95/equivalent.

      No meal service and drinks are limited to usually water plus cans of soda. Snacks in the form of nut mix or pretzels. Lots of folks bringing their own and masks off in flight isn’t uncommon when eating.

      I anecdotally haven’t heard anyone coughing/hacking, all flights have been quiet.

      • 7

        Did you notice if they’re cleaning the bathrooms more frequently? I’d assume people take off their mask the moment they close the door in there.

      • 5

        When I flew about a month ago I didn’t notice anyone clean the bathroom. You can see my previous description above. 
        I need to make the same trip this Friday returning Monday (Aug 7-10). I’ll report back what I see. 

        I don’t think people should be flying if they don’t need to. 

    • 6

      Part of my little family flew in late June to see my son (in a program in another state).  Was it a “have to?”  As a mom who hadn’t seen her boy in months I’d say yes.  We flew out of San Jose and that airport was great.  Very very few people, most of the food places closed, whole chunks of the airport closed, every person masked (this was before the state-wide mask mandate I think), everyone distanced.  We flew Delta and they were good–baggies w/ water snack wipes, seats empty, back to front boarding.  Only hiccup was the man a row in front of us who kept taking his mask off (gave me major anxiety).

      Our supplies: we wore cloth masks with inserts and no eye protection (I think now I would do a shield as well).  Wiped everything near us down. Lots of small bottles of hand sanitizer.   I brought our own “snack packs” because we would miss dinner–we ate those after arrival out of a public space.  I always travel with a refillable water bottle and use the filling stations at the airport.  

      Our destination was Salt Lake and that was a whole different experience.  Almost a regular pre-Covid number of people.  Some (maybe 30-40%) not masked.  It was pretty shocking after being in Northern Cal.  

      • 4

        The scene in Salt Lake definitely sounds shocking. And in late June! Sounds like everyone emerged okay.

        Funny that you mention the food places at the airport in San Jose. I was chatting with a friend a few days ago about whether food places would be open at most airports, given that fewer people are flying. You said most were closed? Wow.

    • 2

      I just took a business flight this past month and only brought my cloth mask. I am fully vaccinated but felt very naked and vulnerable when I was on the plane and a lady a row over started having a coughing fit. I felt so bad for her and she was clearly uncomfortable, but felt even worse for the people sitting next to her who wondered if it was covid or not. 

      I wish I had brought my N95! On the way back, I doubled up the two masks that I had with me to provide as much protection as I could.

      They didn’t serve food or beverages on our flight, which I was grateful for to have people keep their masks on as much as possible.