Flying During COVID-19: Q & A with Flight Attendant Amanda Layton

Amid the global coronavirus pandemic, plane travel may never return to what we all previously considered “normal.” Beauty News NYC sat down with flight attendant Amanda Layton, who has worked for Alaska Airlines for three years, to ask what we should know and expect the next time we board an aircraft.

Layton grew up in an aviation family, but had zero interest in joining the airline industry at first. Her father is a dispatcher, her step-dad is a pilot, and her mom is a corporate flight attendant. All three of them are obsessed with airplanes. “While cruising, altitude feels right at home to me these days — as a kid, I only tolerated flying because any amount of turbulence had me sweating bullets” Layton said. “Maybe it had something to do with all the airplane crash documentaries my parents gleefully watched. Despite my fear of ending up on 60 minutes, I still traveled because it opened up my eyes to the world.”

BN: What are some of your most important tips for preparing to board a plane? 

Do everything you can to keep your immune system strong before getting on a flight. Wash your hands, stick to good nutrition, move your body, drink water, and get quality sleep. Make sure you are organized before going to the airport. Disorganization can lead to unnecessary stress and ruin your entire day. Please be kind to your future self and get your things in order.

Make sure that any liquids, gels or aerosols are no more than 3.4 ounces in your carry-on bags. I read on TSA’s website that in response to COVID-19, passengers are allowed to bring one container of hand sanitizer up to 12 ounces in their carry-on bag. Just make sure to take it out of your bag when going through security. It’s always a great idea to put any liquids, gels, or aerosols in a clear plastic bag. This helps TSA out a lot. Keep in mind that TSA is working hard to avoid cross-contamination by directing passengers outside the security lines, so they don’t have to go through your bag if you forgot or failed to remove items such as liquids, gels, aerosols, laptops, and large electronics. 

Give yourself plenty of time to get through security. I like to give myself at least two hours before departure time, just in case the lines are long. 

BN: Should we bring our own food?

Absolutely. I highly suggest bringing your own food, especially on longer flights. We are not serving meals like we used to before COVID-19 hit, but we are serving a limited snack selection. On longer flights, First Class is given the option of a snack box while the rest of the main cabin gets a savory snack packet. Honestly, it’s not much, so either bring food from home or buy food at the airport. Most airport restaurants are opening back up again, so that’s a great way to get a hot meal before going on a long trip.

As with liquids, gels, and aerosols, carry-on food from home should be placed in a clear plastic bag and placed into a bin when going through security. If you do not do this, it could set off an alarm during the screening process and TSA will have to touch and remove it from your bag. No one wants that, right? Good news for any TSA Precheck flyers out there: if you are bringing food from home you do not have to remove these items from your carry-on bag.

BN: Can we order beverages? Do we still get free soft drinks and water?

The drinking situation is pretty dismal right now, especially if that is something you look forward to on your travels. 

It may change after I write this, but as of right now, First Class is served Coca-Cola, Diet Coke, Dasani bottled water, red wine, and beer. Flight attendants will only go through once with cart service. In Premium Class, we offer the same drinks as in First Class. In the Main Cabin, however, we are unfortunately not offering red wine or beer, so I would suggest going to a restaurant or bar before stepping on the plane if you want alcohol. Please note, you are not allowed to drink your own alcohol on the airplane. That is an FAA regulation.

We are always happy to hand out more bottled water if passengers come back to the galley still thirsty, but since our bottled water is tiny, I would highly suggest bringing your own refillable water bottle on trips. Make sure it is empty when going through security, otherwise, you’ll have to dump it out. You can always fill it up at a drinking fountain near your gate. I suggest doing this before boarding the flight, especially if it is a long one. Remember that staying hydrated is key to healthy travels. 

BN: Besides a mask, what other items do you believe are essential?

This is a great question. Even though the airlines are taking extra precautions to disinfect the airplanes, I would still suggest bringing your own sanitizing wipes to give your seat and tray table an additional scrub down for good measure and peace of mind. I used to make fun of these kinds of people before COVID-19, but, as it turns out, that’s a smart thing to do. Bring a Ziploc bag to store your dirty wipes, too. This makes it easier for the flight attendants when we come through the cabin to pick up trash.

Besides a mask that is enforced now, one of the best ways we can protect ourselves is by consistently washing our hands. However, airplane soap can be harsh on the skin, so I recommend buying a travel size version of Dr. Bronner’s Pure-Castile Liquid Soap (I personally like the lavender-scented one) and hand lotion. This has helped keep my hands from cracking and bleeding while in the air. Chapstick is a must, too.

Since turbulence is a normal part of flying and you should always remain seated with your seatbelt fastened when it gets bumpy, I would also recommend carrying a travel size bottle of hand sanitizer when you can’t get up to wash your hands in the lavatory.

BN: From a Flight Attendant’s perspective, what would you like travelers to know before they board the plane?

Joining the public after being quarantined for months can definitely be a little unnerving at first; therefore, I want passengers to take a deep, warm breath (thanks face mask) before boarding the airplane. It is going to be okay. Please know that the best thing we can do as a society is to operate out of a place of love and compassion rather than fear.

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