Summer travel is back in full force, with new Transportation Security Administration data revealing that close to 9 million people passed through airports over the Fourth of July weekend.
“With the lifting of many border restrictions, we are seeing the long-expected surge in bookings as people seek to make up for two years of lost travel opportunities,” said Willie Walsh, Director General of the International Air Transport Association.
And demand is not expected to ease any time soon. With more than two months of summer remaining, there are still plenty of vacations on the books.
Unfortunately, many travelers find themselves contending with flight delays and cancellations, lost baggage, and other headaches – the result of a skilled labor shortage.
More worrisome, though, is the threat to traveler safety that emerges as airports become more and more crowded. Not only do airport guests face increased risk of illness, but they are more likely to be affected by issues like identity theft and violence.
Here are our tips for protecting yourself against common travel threats – this summer and into the future.
Most experts agree that the risk of contracting COVID-19 on an airplane is relatively low, due to the air filtration system and enhanced sanitation measures. But with flights being delayed and canceled more frequently, travelers are spending more time in the airport – where the risk of illness is much higher.
Although the mask mandate was lifted back in April, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) still recommends wearing a mask in public transit settings, including airports and airplanes. And the simple fact remains: Social distancing and hand washing can help prevent the spread of the virus.
Some airports are making it easier for travelers to maintain social distance by implementing monitoring solutions that display the number of occupants in high-traffic areas such as restrooms. Be sure to take advantage of these new technologies and other airport health initiatives, including sanitation stations, self-service baggage drop, and virtual queuing systems.
Meanwhile, don’t forget to take care of your mental health. Even under normal circumstances, traveling is stressful. But plants are proving to be helpful to guests as they cope with travel-related anxieties.
While identity theft isn’t typically a top concern for travelers, research indicates that it probably should be. Scammers are aware that people travel with key identification documents as well as extra cash and provisions.
Travelers should be mindful of their vulnerability to identity theft throughout their entire journey – starting at the airport. Many people rely on the airport’s public Wi-Fi for either work or entertainment purposes. But the network can be misconfigured or spoofed, giving scammers easy access to sensitive data.
Instead of using public Wi-Fi, you should always rely on your own Wi-Fi hotspot. Simply obtain a SIM data card from an electronics store or an airport kiosk to prevent a bad actor from ruining your trip.
A recent increase in unruly passengers is another cause for traveler concern. The Federal Aviation Authority reported more than 4,600 passenger incidents between January and October 2021.
Although these acts are committed by a minority of passengers, they have a disproportionate impact, threatening the safety of crew and other passengers and causing delays and diversions.
It’s crucial that travelers be aware of their surroundings and prepared to act in the event of violence, or worst-case scenario, an active shooting.
For further recommendations, see the CDC’s Survival Guide to Safe and Healthy Travel.