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Holiday travel amid the pandemic

Posted at 5:24 AM, Dec 23, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-23 06:43:14-05

FORT MYERS, Fla -- If your holiday plans include hopping on a plane, it's not just health experts who are warning you not to. A consumer advocate is also speaking out. He said a safe way to travel right now during COVID just does not exist.

Washington Post columnist and consumer advocate Christopher Elliott points specifically to the COVID safety claims from airports and other parts of the travel industry, saying while they may give you some sense of relief before hitting the skies, they shouldn't.

He said the industry is trying to persuade you that some of these ways of getting to where you need to go are less risky than others, or even risk-free, but he said that is wrong.

He said a safe way to travel for the holidays does not exist.

A survey of epidemiologists showed that a plane is not the riskiest part of your journey, it's the airport. Airports are a combination of everything you'd normally avoid including a mall, a food court, and a bunch of bars.

"If you're at the airport and you see people congregating, or you see them taking their masks off and eating or drinking, that's really where there's more potential for a COVID infection," said Elliott.

Then once you get on the plane, he said there's no way to really know if your seat is clean and safe, aside from taking the airline's word for it. He said the only way to be absolutely sure, is to clean your seat yourself.

That's only where his concerns begin. He's also speaking out about the rental car and hotel portion of a person's travel journey.

He said some travelers are actually traveling with a black light right now to check and make sure seats are clean on their journey.

That's because when it comes to parts of your travel experience like renting a car, there's no independent, third-party organization auditing the claims the company makes.

He said you can go to the company's website and see what they say that they're doing. But said it's just like when you go to sit on an airplane seat, addint that there's no good housekeeping seal of approval.

"Saying that you're doing something is not going to help because how do you verify that they're actually doing it? Well, you can't," he said.

He said that's not the case for at least one hotel chain who has a protocol that makes sense.

"Hilton has a very well-known program, and when you check into one of its rooms, there's a seal at the door that is supposed to indicate that your room has been cleaned thoroughly."

If the seal isn't broken, it means no one's been in that room since it was sanitized.

As for other hotels, he said it's not right some offer certain cleaning services like a UV robot at an extra cost, because travelers shouldn't have to pay extra for safety.