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What Travel Could Look Like After Coronavirus

Many aspects of life will likely never return to normal after COVID-19, but here's how flying will be changed forever because of the coronavirus pandemic.

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The future of flying

If the novel coronavirus pandemic has taught us anything, it's probably that we don't wash our hands enough and we touch way too much stuff—including our face. While much of everyday life will be changed forever because of COVID-19, here's a look at how airplanes, the airline industry, and the act of flying to reach a destination may be irrevocably different. Meanwhile, these 13 everyday habits should change forever after coronavirus.

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New protocols at security

Before you step on a plane, you’ll notice a few changes at security. The TSA recently announced new screening procedures that will be implemented starting in mid-June. These include social distancing while in line—there will be markers on the floor to remind travelers of the appropriate space to keep; placing your own boarding pass on to the boarding pass reader vs. handing it to the TSA agent to do so, and removing any food items from your carry on before it passes through the X-ray machine. TSA agents will be wearing masks and are asking passengers to as well. One bright spot is that the 3.4 oz liquid restriction is waived for hand sanitizer. Each passenger is allowed a 12 ounce bottle of it. Air travel isn’t the only thing changing—find out 10 things you won’t see in hotels anymore.

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Social distancing in the sky

The gap on social distancing won't be closed once we get the proverbial all-clear, aviation expert Henry Harteveldt of Atmosphere Research Group told Travel & Leisure. "Public health officials will still encourage social distancing and that airlines might continue blocking middle seats or limiting the number of people in premium cabins," he says. You can also expect measures to be put in place for more space between passengers in line at check-in, at security, and to board planes. Find out the method of boarding planes was proven effective at reducing cases of ebola.

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Proving your (good) health before flying

Emirates Airlines has begun administering COVID-19 blood tests on potential passengers before they're allowed to board planes (results take ten minutes), reports The Points Guy. While it may not be blood tests here in the United States, it is likely that some kind of testing—contactless heart rate monitoring or a quick temperature check—will be required before boarding a plane in the future. This is the right way to germ-proof your plane seat.

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No more magazines

For fans of good travel writing, in-flight magazines were a reliable source of evocative storytelling and striking photography. Sadly, the novel coronavirus may cause those publications to go the way of the SkyMall catalog, as a way of reducing the potential spread of bacteria and viruses. "Magazines and other print reading material are no longer being made available," while food and beverages will still be served, "packaging and presentation will be modified to reduce contact during meal service and minimize [the] risk of interaction," according to Stuff. Should you actually be disinfecting your mail because of coronavirus?

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No more carry on bags

Another already-implemented change on Emirates airlines that we could expect to see carried forward, even after the curve on coronavirus has been more or less flattened globally, is that large carry-on suitcases may not be permitted onboard planes. Fear not, business travelers and parents of infants, carry-on items like laptops, handbags, briefcases, and baby items should still be allowed. You'll want to learn these sneaky ways to bypass airline baggage fees.

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Masked fliers

Flight attendants will likely continue to wear masks and gloves and limiting onboard service to reduce interactions with passengers, including no longer serving meals, snacks, or beverages. All airline passengers on Southwest, Alaska Airlines, American, Delta, United, Frontier, and JetBlue, are now required to wear masks when traveling. This will be the most visible way that the coronavirus pandemic will change flying forever, or at least for the foreseeable future, especially as fears mount over COVID-19's potentially deadlier second wave. Here's how to make your own DIY face mask.

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More fees to fly

With revenue plummeting, Dollar Flight Club expects that the airline industry as a whole will, "ramp up additional fees to get back to profitability." That means higher fees for checked bags, as American Airlines recently implemented, higher fees to pick your own seat ahead of time, higher fees for premium seats in economy and elsewhere, and more. The site's study shows, for example, airlines made a whopping $3.4 billion in 2011 by charging for checked baggage, while just four years earlier baggage fees netted airlines just $464 million in 2007. Now might be the time to find that airline credit card offering free checked luggage to avoid these fees.

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A new fear of flying

After this coronavirus pandemic, getting sick while flying may overtake heavy turbulence and a plane crash as the primary fear travelers have while onboard. While believing cabin air is laden with bacteria and viruses is one of the airplane myths you should stop believing, the air is dry, which can allow for germs to spread. As far as the likelihood of catching COVID-19 on a flight, "you're at medium risk of infection if you're seated in the immediate radius of a sick person—up to two seats in every direction (about six feet)," Popular Science reports. "Anywhere beyond that is considered low to very low risk." Read these facts about flying to help you stay calm in the air.

Cancelled Flights Are Shown On Display Panel At Berlin-Tegel Airport, Berlin, GermanyKay Fochtmann / EyeEm/Getty Images

Travel insurance

Most travelers were able to cancel flights penalty-free during this round of coronavirus but the future of air travel likely means a surge in passengers saying "yes" to travel insurance to further safeguard against a COVID-19 second wave or another, completely new pandemic. Experts believe pandemics will be covered under travel insurance but still read the fine print before purchasing, according to The Points Guy. Here's when travel insurance is—and isn't—worth the price.

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