The Paranoid germophobe’s guide to flying safely during COVID-19

Hitanshu Gandhi    Updated
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DISCLAIMER: I am not, nor do I do even pretend to be a doctor. This post is a common sense OCD person’s summary of his germophobe friends’ advise of how they flew during the COVID-19 crisis. Please consult your doctor or local health service for authoritative advise – I take no responsibility for any outcomes either way.

Information as of end Jun 2020.


  1. Prep at HOME:
    1. Install Aarogya Setu a day or two in advance, just to make sure there are no surprises when you arrive at the airport
    2. For senior citizens or unfit folks unused to high filtration masks, practice wearing the mask 4-5 hours a day or so prior. The last thing you’d want to do is inadvertently take off the mask while walking to/fro the gate.
      1. Only if required – plan your journey to take unmasked socially distanced open air breaks – at the airport kerbside (just before embarking and on arrival), outside the aircraft (if you are riding out to an aircraft by a bus).
      2. Plan sufficient time so that you can walk leisurely to the aircraft or for check-in. Masks slow you down.
    3. While web-checking in, select a seat a bit far from the toilet – say 5/6th row onward up till the 26th row (Indigo).
  2. Leaving for the airport:
    1. Wear shoes that cover your full feet in the remote event they seek to sanitize your shoes, as was done for the first few flights’ passengers.
    2. Wear a shirt with an outside pocket to carry the boarding pass, which you should print at home. Don’t mix it with any of your other belongings.
    3. Open the windows of the cab as you ride to / fro the airport. If you have a portable ionizer, keep it running.
  3. At the airport:
    1. Eat and drink water as soon as you reach the airport, before entering – do not take off your mask at any point for any reason even if you visit the washroom multiple times.
    2. Due to the risk of fecal oral exposure, I would strongly advise using the toilet at the airport, not in flight.
    3. Avoid crowds at the gate – sit or stand a bit far away if you can.
    4. Disinfect your seat before you sit, esp the handrails.
    5. Don’t smoke in the smoking room.
  4. In-flight:
    1. Increase ventilation over your seat to the max. Flights have a strong constant downdraft of air from the vents above you.
    2. using the toilet inflight. Sanitize the seat well, open/close the door 5-6 times to force-ventilate the loo before entering.
    3. If you have a portable ionizer, keep it on! Make sure you have a battery pack for this purpose

Shopping List for the aam aadmi / common man:

  1. Face shield – Indian carriers give you a decent one which is good for a few uses. The only advantage in carrying your own is to use one at your destination point, else don’t
  2. N95/N99 mask – Paramount. Please source one from either Amazon Solimo or Smart Air Filters. I wouldn’t trust random brands unless it has been manufactured by VENUS, the best mfr in India, which is the supplier for SAF above.
    1. If you aren’t comfortable with these masks, use a multi-layer cotton mask that is more breathable.
    2. Buy two surgical masks and wear them one over another if you will. This is better than regular cotton masks but is recommended only if you cannot wear the N95 comfortably.
  3. Simple goggles that covers the eye. Old Swimming googles will do as well – they are frankly required only in-flight not otherwise. Airport air is well circulated and you are in close proximity to others only in-flight. If you don’t have it, it is fine for short flights if you have a face shield.
  4. Paper tissue pack – If you must touch your nose – use tissues and throw them. No napkin.
  5. Sanitizer – Both in gel (for hand rub) as well as spray form (to sanitize seat etc), but under 100ml just to be safe. You could carry 2-3 of these Ciphands pocket sanitizer sprays.

Shopping list for the paranoid androids:

  1. Betadine Solution – Use this as instructed in this viral instagram video. It is available at most chemists nationwide.
  2. Pocket ionizer – Use any car ionizer – connect it with a battery pack and breathe easy in your own reduced virus bubble
  3. Plexiglas partition – If its a long flight or you are immuno-compromised, you could carry two plexiglas partitions (18″ X 21″) with you – that would minimize any in-flight exposure.

What is NOT recommended:

  • PPE Kit – NO, You are not a doctor. You are not touching objects contaminated by dozens of really sick COVID patients. Don’t buy stuff you don’t need – leave it for the doctors. Its just an insufferably hot plastic gown anyways. Use a raincoat if you must!
  • Nitrile gloves – Again, you are not touching too many things, or around seriously ill patients. Simply touch less items and sanitize regularly. If mandatory, the airline will give them to you – they cause you to sweat profusely.