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Social Distancing On Airplanes Will Be An Issue Once Crowds Return

BOSTON (CBS) - There are signs everywhere warning passengers to wear a mask, wash their hands and keep their distance. But if you traveled lately and walked through the eerily quiet terminals, you know there's nothing but distance at Logan Airport.

But once the crowds return, CBS News travel editor Peter Greenberg says keeping people six feet apart is going to be tricky.

"Even on a good day at Logan, or any other airport, you're talking about a line that will stretch a mile-and-a-half long. That's unworkable," he said.

Right now, if you are flying out of Logan, you'll see TSA agents wearing masks and gloves standing behind clear shields. They may ask you to pull your mask down to confirm your identity.

logan airport cleaning
Sanitation efforts at Logan Airport (WBZ-TV)

But even more changes are coming.

According to TSA, agents will soon ask passengers to scan their own boarding pass after showing it to them, so they don't have to touch it. You'll also have to put any food items in one of those gray bins that go through the x-ray scanner. If you have something prohibited in your bag, instead of agents searching through your belongings, you'll have to do it yourself.

Those confusing boarding groups? Forget it.

"No matter what kind of ticket you are holding or how much you paid for it [or] what class, they are boarding from back to front. That makes sense, so you are not walking by anyone who is already seated," Greenberg said.

coronavirus plane flying
(Photo by LILLIAN SUWANRUMPHA/AFP via Getty Images)

Once onboard, social distancing becomes nearly impossible.

"The problem is even if you block the center seat, that is not social distancing, it's 22 inches. Not to mention the guy behind you who just sneezed. You are going to have to get used to wearing masks, practicing basic hygiene protocols, wiping down every surface your skin touches like tray tables, seats, headrests - and don't forget the air nozzles above you," Greenberg said.

Greenberg warned struggling airlines are going to want to sell that center seat as soon as they can.

"For anyone out there watching who thinks that middle seat will be blocked off forever, you're delusional," he said.

Don't count on any bargains, either. Greenberg says airlines are aware that many passengers are much more concerned about the cleanliness and safety of the airplane than the price of the ticket.

The good news?

Greenberg believes filtering systems on planes do help keep passengers safe.

"I feel safer flying on planes in that environment than going anywhere else," he said.

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