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Health Experts: Airline Passengers More Likely To Get COVID Because Of Omicron Variant

BOSTON (CBS) – Airports are gearing up for the holiday rush as health experts warn passengers are more likely to get COVID-19 on planes because of the Omicron variant.

"If you're sitting shoulder-to-shoulder with other people it's going to be pretty hard to avoid the virus, HEPA filter or not," said Dr. Robert Klugman of UMass Memorial Health. "The Omicron variant is just a supercharged virus. Much more contagious, easy to pass, easy to contract. It takes less virus, less particles, less air to get this virus."

The McDermott family made sure they had plenty of KN95 masks on hand on their flight from Boston to Orlando, Florida.

"We're just really cautious about hand sanitizing, wearing the mask all the time, not eating at restaurant," said Rebecca McDermott.

Some travelers at Logan Airport in Boston say they understand the risks but feel comfortable flying because they've done what they can to do so safely.

"My husband and I have been doubly vaccinated and boosted, we're wearing masks, we're doing what we can," said Lisa Fletcher, an international traveler from England.

Dr. Klugman told WBZ-TV that risks associated with the Omicron variant extend far beyond the flight and vaccination status.

"It relates to some extent to how long you're on the plane. If you take your mask off to eat, that's the highest risk situation," Dr. Klugman said. "Use the ventilator on the plane to blow air on yourself to keep moving the virus particles away from yourself."

He also suggests that passengers wait to be among the last to board and to fly business class if possible – where it's less congested.

The Fletchers from England appreciate the warning, but said they're taking precautions to stay healthy. They just want some normalcy for the holidays.

"At some point, my life has feel like it's been pending for two years. We've got to learn to cope with it," said Lisa Fletcher.

If people must travel, health experts urge passengers not to take their mask off during the flight if possible.

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