Airline Passenger Explains They’re Flying Because They Have Covid

One Mile at a Time highlights a case of a passenger on what he says looks like an American Airlines flight texting that they have Covid-19, which is the reason they’re traveling. They’ve decided to cut their trip short and go home early.

We have Covid… shhh. That’s why we’re coming home a day early.

The traveler also texted that they got into a venue (a hockey game) the night before using using their grandmother’s negative Covid-19 test. Their father got a test and was positive.

Normally I’d say that reading over someone’s shoulder and sharing the contents of their texts online is abhorrent but that clearly pales in comparison to someone choosing to travel while they are knowingly infected (and likely infectious, since it sounds like at least their father tested positive – twice – with a rapid test).

That’s my view independent of Covid – don’t fly sick. And since they changed their flight they likely weren’t on a basic economy fare. They could have changed it in the other direction, to isolate themselves rather than traveling to the airport, through security and exposing themelves to others at the gate and on the jet bridge in addition to on the airport.

They also violated the airline’s rules, since they specifically had to agree to Covid-19 terms saying that they weren’t currently sick.

I’d have said something to the crew and sought to have them isolated on the aircraft. It’s not clear that every crewmember would take this seriously or take action. I wouldn’t confront them myself. And sitting close enough to photograph their texts I’d consider myself to have been exposed and proceed accordingly.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Gary,
    I believe this incident is more prevalent than we realize. Clearly those who refuse to vaccinate may be guilty of this kind of behaviour as well. Likewise people who are asymptomatic may be traveling without realizing they are infectious.
    The airlines are likewise not being truly honest in saying that air travel in the aircraft will not lead to Covid infections from the aircraft when this is clearly not the case. There would be no pandemic without air travel.

  2. Which brings up an interesting point. Some airlines, e.g. Alaska, have again made basic economy type tickets non-changeable.

    In practice, this non-changeability means that people will fly when they have Covid to avoid losing the value of the ticket. Obviously that type of behavior on the part of passengers is reprehensible – but so is an airline practice that will inevitably lead to sick people flying and endangering innocent passengers.

  3. Isn’t it all PCR required?
    I expect this to be an US national flight there.
    Sadly it’s just for international travel…

  4. This is why we need to test every person before allowing them to step foot in an airport. period.

  5. You’re all going to get it. Regardless of how many needles you’ve had jabbed in your arm. Regardless of how many masks you have on. The sooner you realize that natural immunity is the answer, the faster we get out of this mess. Time for all you covid cultists to stop living in fear.

  6. Still abhorrent to spy on others, but Covid has created an East German style atmosphere of mutual fear in which people feel justified to do it. Nothing to be proud of though.

    I can’t get too exercised about this. Is it really so evil to fly “infected” with Covid? We’re told that masks prevent infection, and she’s wearing one. Is that no longer true? If not, why are we still forced to wear them?

    Is there any empirical evidence at all that sitting in a HEPA filtered airplane, with a mask, facing forward, is at all likely to pass the infection?

    Is it immoral to risk infecting others when they’ve had ample opportunity to vaccinate themselves against serious illness or death? Why is flying with Covid worse than flying with a cold or flu? Is it this woman’s responsibility to refrain from traveling because people refuse to take a vaccine that will almost entirely defang the worst aspects of the virus?

    Covid is now part of the normal background risk of life, and will remain so through the distant future or maybe forever. Its high time we treat it as such. If you’re scared, stay home. But let’s not allow our fears give us the license to dictate how other people reasonably behave, or to change what has always been normal human behavior.

  7. Mak

    You are gonna make peoples heads explode with so many legitimate questions! Getting the popcorn out!

  8. A lot of comments pro and con here. I agree this person was selfish and uncaring for others and yet…as a non-physican I don’t get the panic. Something like a third of Americans have been infected (according to an article in Nature–and that was back in August!). So this endless fear and running to testing isn’t really helping anything. Getting vaccinated/boosted is the only answer, and frankly I have pity but no sympathy for those who can and won’t. Also, according to what I could quickly find from reputable sources, the number of active cases seems to be under 1% of the total population. So you can say either like James that everybody is going to get it (and I think that’s right) or that relatively few people are going to get that sick. Now that doesn’t help with so many who have died, been damaged or what it has done to our health care system. But it seems that using either argument makes it hard to justify the extreme measures that are being taken. Masks may well slow down the spread, but they won’t stop it. Rough as this is, it’s nature, we might guide some of how it moves, but we’re not going to stop it either.

  9. This reminds me of those tests we used to get when applying for a job:

    “Sometimes, it is ok to read others’ personal communications and report it.”

  10. But the masks stop the virus!!! That’s why we’re wearing them on planes, forever. Right? Right?
    We are East Germans now. Stassi are your heroes. See something say something.

  11. Proof of vaccination wont stop people from flying sick. Vaccines dont eliminate getting or transmitting the virus. Everyone has many dates ahead with covid. The weaklings and fatties have been allowed to dictate how the rest of us live for far too long. Its about time we returned to sanity and stop letting the tiny minority inconvenience the vast majority. You have had two years now to lose weight, make lifestyle adjustments, get vaccinated or grow a pair of balls. Its time to move on and get back to normal life.

  12. @wesley Your comment is just awful in many ways but how do you suggest a immune compromised person “make lifestyle adjustments” when losing weight isn’t the problem? There are a lot of people who don’t smoke and are not overweight that are at risk because of serious medical conditions that they cannot solve with exercise. Not to mention that children under 5 still cannot it get vaccinated. 800,000 US citizens have died from COVID already, do you really want that to go to millions of deaths?

  13. If you are high risk and worried about getting STAY AT HOME. ISOLATE for the rest of your life!Never come out of the house again. Literally, every other person has COVID right now, you more likely to get it going to the grocery store. The mask thing is stupid. Oh magically you don’t need a mask at a restaurant???? Give me a break. COVID isn’t going anywhere. Period. Everyone is a dang sheep…

  14. I guess it’s appropriate that one more example of how low some people can stoop to would come out on Jan 6……still think most people aren’t as bad as the people making the news these days….we are all victims of the extremists, the narcissists and the grandstanding politicians that are totally void of integrity.

  15. @Alex, The law has recognized for centuries something called the “Egg-Shell Skull Doctrine.” This idea recognizes that if you are unusually fragile — possessing something akin to the proverbial eggshell thin skull — then you, and not society, are responsible for taking special care of yourself to guard against your special vulnerabilities to ordinary life. Your question seeks to flip this common sense understanding on its head. Anybody particularly vulnerable to Covid should take charge of their own health and take appropriate measures to guard against it, but shouldn’t ever force others to accommodate for their vulnerability. We need to return to this understanding of societal obligations.

  16. As Gary has already pointed out, there exists practically no place where large numbers of people are gathered that covid is not present. Vaccines stop neither acquisition nor transmission. With that being understood, individuals must decide what to do based upon their own assessment of risk. Those with near zero risk tolerance must factor in the likely behavior of those with higher risk tolerance.

  17. A group of us flew home from a foreign country this past Sunday. We all tested negative on Saturday. On Monday two of us tested positive. So we were likely positive on Sunday. Do I feel bad about it? Absolutely not. Life is not without risk. Being vaccinated doesn’t mean you won’t get sick. Deal with it.

  18. We’re in this together… ended long ago . Don’t travel ill whether it be flu, covid, anything.

  19. This kind of thing undoubtedly goes on all the time. Yet another reason that the only rule for travel should be: ‘If you think you might catch the virus, stay home’. All the baloney about catching the virus is just that … people are ‘testing’ positive for the virus. Doesn’t mean they ‘have’ the virus. Doesn’t mean that they’ll infect everyone they encounter. The politicians and bureaucrats are keeping this virus BS alive just for fun, there’s no reason for 99% of the restrictions we now face. If you think you might get sick, stay home. Let’s move on.

  20. Covid is over! No one gives a shit anymore or cares about masks. We all will get it at some point. I’m a liberal democrat I voted for Biden.

  21. Even before Covid, my heavy travel season correlated with Flu season. As a healthcare provider, pre covid and knowing my risks, I traveled knowing that my influenza vaccine is marginally effective. I traveled with tamiflu and basic first aid. I stashed surgical masks in my bag. I wore them while in direct patient care of sick people. In over a decade of travel, even a dozen covid times travel, I never fell ill from my flu or covid time/ season travels. Good hygiene, naturally social distancing, healthy habits, etc. Yes, I am vaccinated. No, not liberal. Hold airlines accountable for their selfishness with flight changes and employee sick policy. Amazing Larry needs to likely talk to a professional. Y’all stay safe and snuff out hate/ division. Travel reminds us that the world isn’t horrible, unless you travel on Amtrak during a snow storm.

  22. @Mak you clearly have no idea what you are talking about and want justify being an uncaring, terrible, selfish person: “The eggshell rule is a well-established legal doctrine in common law, used in some tort law systems, with a similar doctrine applicable to criminal law. The rule states that, in a tort case, the unexpected frailty of the injured person is not a valid defense to the seriousness of any injury caused to them“

    Please get a clue and don’t pretend you are a lawyer when you clearly are not.

  23. Well said Alex, don’t have to dig very deep to see Mak thinks it’s all about the individual taking care of himself and caring about others just doesn’t matter. Pretty much the essence of trumpism…that, along with the concept that lying is an acceptable way to achieve ones goals…kind of sad the amount of Maks there are walking around society, now some of them have been empowered to violence…not sure how thats gonna pan out, hopefully the rule of law will prevail.

  24. Who gives a shit. Live your life and stop allowing democrats to dictate your every breath. Besides, airplanes are magical corona-safe zones….Ed Bastian told me so…

  25. Omicron is a cold. If you’re well enough to travel, travel. If you want to be safe, get vaccinated, and if you’re that scared, stay home. Anywhere you go right now you are being exposed to Omicron. Get over it. Carry on.

  26. My god, I should know to never read the comments whenever it comes to anything politics or COVID related on here (or any site, honestly) but it’s like passing a traffic accident and I look anyway.

    There’s a healthy middle ground here between hysteria and ignorant downplaying of this virus. The ones who say this is simply just a cold- I got omicron over Christmas as did my entire family. I recovered fast (previous infection last January, vaccinated but not boosted), the other members of my family except for my not obese, very active brother all recovered after some very uncomfortable illness. My vaccinated yet not boosted brother on the other hand got it HARD, high fever, severe aches and pains. Mid twenties. Held up for days.

    Another friend of mine is immune compromised, vaccinated and boosted, and then got it this week and has been running a fever of close to 105 for the past day. This is not simply a cold- I think the vast majority will be fine and get through this; but it’s a wee bit more serious than a little cold for a lot of people. Forgive them for being afraid to have to suffer through it, even though it’s pretty much inevitable at this point.

    Yes, Covid is endemic. No, it doesn’t just infect and harm “sickly fatties.” Also god help those of you who are so Darwinian right now should you someday ever get an autoimmune disease or cancer and have to be a bit more concerned for your health and find that many out there don’t give a damn about you when getting sick is suddenly a lot scarier. But I’m sure you’ll be content to lock yourself in your house and simply “stay home.”

    What I’m saying is I’m also over the over the top hysteria and fear mongering. But it’s a slap in the face to anyone who’s had this virus hard, developed long COVID, lost a loved one to COVID… to be so dismissive and cavalier about it.

    Yes, this is now endemic. Yes, this virus fortunately evolved into like a “red giant” strain- massively contagious, but much weaker on the whole. If the original variant had been this contagious, you’d have had a freaking catastrophe in spring 2020.

    We need to learn to live with this, but we also need to learn to be kinder and more considerate. I always have been annoyed being stuck on a plane next to a visibly, very sick person. I had a lovely case of the flu in 2018 from a woman huddled in blankets on a flight from Boston coughing on me nonstop- something that now would spark an altercation on an airliner.

    These airlines DO need to put public health first before profits. A person on a tight budget cannot afford to lose their entire fare or 2/3 of the fare to change fees. At the very least take that complication out of the equation. But as Gary said, that wasn’t at play here. And honestly, this woman is far from the only one knowingly traveling with COVID. I always assume when traveling I’m traveling alongside people who are actively infected. It’s a given.

    Think about the number of people who you see in public restrooms walk out without washing their hands. Now ask yourself if you trust that these people are the types who would care about spreading a disease to you… yeah no. Do what you can to be healthy, but in the public sphere you always have to figure you risk infection.

    Also, considering the filth I’ve found on airplanes in the past several months, from half eaten food in seat pockets to tissues in between the seats… these airlines can quit their “we’re sanitizing thoroughly between flights” BS that they adhered to for maybe a few months max in 2020. When a plane is boarded 10 mins between flights… definitely stopped believing that one a long time ago.

  27. Also @Mak

    You aren’t quite grasping the implications of the Eggshell doctrine… it actually means the opposite of what you’re thinking it means.

  28. @Joey. I’m guessing Mak believes in “alternate truths” ……like so many in this country right now, the truth doesn’t matter. If you don’t like reality just lie about it and stick to your guns.

    Well said on your experience with Covid but sadly the Maks of this world don’t seem to grasp anything beyond their own self importance…..if they haven’t had a bad experience with Covid then it must be overblown.
    He’s a good example of how laughable the people that say “I did the research “ when spouting their latest tale of misinformation. No they did not, they don’t even know how to do research, they just scoured the Internet for unsubstantiated stories that support their bias.

  29. Even testing everyone before boarding would not work as some people do not convert to +++ for 2-3 days after exposure so …………….that could be 2 hours into the flight..

  30. @Mak, the eggshell skull rule means exactly the opposite of what you think. Defendants in tort suits cannot use a person’s unknown “eggshell skull” as a defense. They are liable for the consequences of their actions, regardless of the fragility of the person they injure.

  31. To those who are saying, “she was wearing a mask; are you saying they’re not safe?” The answer is yes. And no.

    Was she wearing it properly and the entire time? Was it tight fitting? Did she take it off for a beverage or snack? To blow her nose? Did she touch her mouth or nose and then touch other things without sanitizing or washing her hands? Did she wear a mask and stay sanitized for the entire journey, including the airport and possible rideshares?

    Using a mask to prevent spreading germs to others is only as good as the awareness and habits of the one wearing the mask, especially in right and enclosed spaces.

  32. Sure, we will all probably get covid at some point, but taking precautions now is common sense. There is a surge of infections that is overwhelming hospitals. People can’t get routine appointments and surgeries because of this. People are having to wait for emergency room treatment.

    Nothing is guaranteed to stop the virus, but there are ways to slow down the rate of transmission and to flatten the curve. Wear a mask…they do make a difference. Take reasonable precautions for the sake of your community. Have a heart.

  33. If you have a problem with this, BUY YOUR OWN PLANE AND HIRE A PILOT! If you decide to ride the bus, you can’t complain about who you ride with.

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