Road vs Air Travel: What's Safer Amid Covid-19

Confused between a Flight and a Road Trip during the Coronavirus Outbreak? Here's how to find out which is Safer.

In a world of COVID19 and even one after, we have learnt the hard way that travelling is not a piece of cake anymore. Of course we travel, there is no life if we can’t move around. But there is a lot of thought, a lot of planning, and a whole lot of consideration that goes into it now. For example, the biggest debate on most dining tables where travelling is discussed, is if road travel is better than air travel. Because in simple layman terms, a personal car is any day more in your control than a plane, especially when it comes to matters like disinfecting, keeping away from strangers and avoiding unnecessary layovers.


Lately, with travel restrictions and massive fear over crowds that inevitably gather on an airport or even a railway station, one can be forgiven to choose differently. In such a scenario, road trips are bound to be the best choice for many. Here’s a little comparison between the two.

Space Constraints

Space Constraints:  Road vs Air Travel: What's Safer Amid Covid-19
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With social distancing being the keyword, suddenly everybody will now want their own space. Of course, some new guidelines coming in from the DGCA Office ensure that in a flight, only window seats will be sold, and a row would be skipped between two sold seats; but that still does not ensure zero contact with personnel, staff, other passengers and airport crowd. 


On the contrary, if you are the king of your own car, or renting one for the trip then it’s just you and your family/friends. Even though a car is a small space than an aircraft, it will be filled with people you know are safe and healthy.

Control over Stops

Control over Stops:  Road vs Air Travel: What's Safer Amid Covid-19
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One of the reasons cruise travel has been completely canned by the WHO during the Coronavirus crisis is that it makes many pitstops at many ports and towns. This leads to people coming in and out from the place, bringing in unique diseases into the craft. Wouldn’t the same apply for an aircraft? In case you are not on a direct flight, there will be danger of stopover traffic coming in. Especially if the stopover is in a corona red zone. 


Now even if everybody is relentlessly screened and thermal-scanned, there is always the chance of infection spreading through the aircraft air. While in your own car, you can plan your schedule so that you only stop for petrol and bathroom breaks, and ensure complete hygiene when doing so.

People, people, people

People, people, people:  Road vs Air Travel: What's Safer Amid Covid-19
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This is the worst of all. In case of flying, you cannot avoid people. They will be there everywhere. On the airport entry points, at luggage check-ins, in lounges, boarding areas, gates, and then in planes. Even with the pre-drawn circles and social distancing norms, you will definitely be rubbing shoulders with others. For a hygiene freak, this is the worst nightmare, notwithstanding the millions of times you will be touching contaminated things like counters, escalator banisters, handles, elevator buttons etc.


In case of a road trip, everything is under your control. If you are that meticulous about unknown places and people then make sure you are carrying your food and drink along, don’t make stops at roadside hotels, and choose to use washrooms in petrol pumps, with gloves and masks in tow.

If you are Sick…

If you are Sick…:  Road vs Air Travel: What's Safer Amid Covid-19
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Even if you are going through a common cold or are just allergic sneezing, the airport checking will be hard-pressed. Even at the beginning of the COVID19 crisis, when airport security had toughened against any flu-like symptoms, it had become incredibly difficult for people with common cold or allergies to travel without being pulled apart. Some were even taken into quarantine if symptoms matched. Even if that does not happen, you are a still a potential carrier of viruses and flus that may infect and harm others; even if it is not COVID19.


So if it is a short distance flight you were planning any way, then just take your car!


Costs:  Road vs Air Travel: What's Safer Amid Covid-19
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With the world economy tethering on a 100% recession, and almost everyone’s personal savings being used up through the lockdown period, very few will be able to afford the exorbitantly high air tickets. Panic sales and pre-booked flights notwithstanding, You would have to shell out a bomb for a one way ticket because now the flights would operate on 1/3rd capacity. To break even, the prices will obviously rise substantially.


On the other hand, we all know what went on in the crude oil market recently. With countries like India buying up all that stock at dirt cheap rates, petrol prices are bound to come down in the near future, making your road trip a breeze on your pocket.

Open Spaces

Open Spaces:  Road vs Air Travel: What's Safer Amid Covid-19
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After weeks of lockdown, who wouldn’t want to zoom through the open spaces, farmlands and mountains? If you were shut in your house for weeks, even months on end; would you choose a flight that would be a blur? Or go for a road trip that would bring to your windows all that natural beauty of hamlets and farms and streams and untouched forests?


Of course, this is a highly subjective choice and you would have many rooting for each side. While some would prefer the luxury of an aircraft, others would want to enjoy being outside, breathe in open spaces, and know that they are not at risk in the wild, open nature.

What do Experts say?

What do Experts say?:  Road vs Air Travel: What's Safer Amid Covid-19
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Experts at the WHO (UN) and CDC (The USA) have one thing in common when it comes to road travel : they urge people to make as few stops as possible. This is the key for your protection. Prepare your meals from home, carry your coffee thermos, keep a fully updated medical kit, hand sanitisers and disinfectant. Pre-book accommodations at good, hygienic, reputed hotels and not any roadside motels. Don’t travel if you are sick or with somebody who is. All of this combined will ensure that your road trip is safer than air travel. 


Even though expert opinion suggests that aircraft air circulation ensures the least possibility of an infection, you are still at risk if there is somebody ill in 6 m radius around you. In a nutshell, planes are also generally safe and maintained well by the airline staff, but the difference is, you can control most variables in your own car as opposed to on the airport or in the aircraft.

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