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Eating on an International Flight

Would like to hear from those who have flown internationally recently. Since we will be wearing masks while on planes, how does eating a meal work exactly? Do you have to repeatedly lower your mask for a bite or sip? Or, can you take down your mask for 15 minutes and eat a meal in its entirety? Just want to know what to expect, my trip is not till late spring but trying to think of all issues so that I am mentally prepared. Thanks!

Posted by
12727 posts

Well, when I flew to Paris pre-Omicron I took my mask off and ate my meal in it’s entirety.

Last week on a 6-hr flight to Hawaii on AK I got food in Seattle, ate at the gate, then just snacked on a bar on the actual flight. I took a bite, re-donned my N95, took a bite/sip, re-donned my mask, etc. It certainly cuts down on my fluid intake.

Posted by
6113 posts

When I took a 4+ hour flight from London to the Canary Islands in October, we didn’t eat or drink on the plane and kept our masks on for the entire flight. Those that were eating and drinking were a mix if masks off for the duration of the meal and those replacing their masks after every sip or mouthful.

A friend flew there last month. He had tested negative immediately before his flight. A few days into the holiday and he tested positive. The only time he wasn’t wearing a mask near others was when he ate and drank on the flight and he believes this is where he picked Covid up. He isolated for 10 days to avoid spreading it to others.

Posted by
247 posts

I have flown 4 or 5 intl airlines in the last 3 months. You can take off your mask entirely for 15-30 min and enjoy the meal : )

Posted by
6713 posts

(Tried to remove unwanted text formatting but unsuccessful)

Interesting Covid note from the NY Times this week, about a surge in tourism to the Dominican Republic, followed by a surge in Covid in the Dominican Republic. I've edited the full names out, but the Times printed the full names of the interviewees, so they presumably gave permission:

For Kelly xxxx yyyyyy, XX, a behavioral health nurse [!!} from xxxxx, Mich., the possibility was particularly nerve-wracking because early in her one-week visit with her 18-year-old daughter to Punta Cana, she’d started to feel like she was coming down with something. She took two rapid tests she’d brought and tested positive twice, she said.

Ms. yyyyyy was conflicted about how to proceed, but ultimately opted not to spend her whole vacation in her room, instead upping her mask wearing and avoiding indoor spaces. As her daughter, Caitlyn yyyyyy, who’d already had Omicron back home, pointed out, other people were probably positive around her, but didn’t know it, so why should she be penalized for testing positive?

Much to her relief, Ms. yyyyyy tested negative that morning at the resort clinic. The results had come so fast — within a couple of minutes, instead of the 15 that is more typical — she had wondered about their accuracy.

Apparently we use Middle School morals to decide public health issues today. Original article with paywall:

Without paywall:

Posted by
2514 posts

My 5 hour flight to NYC last October was a red-eye so I ate before flying--mask worn at all times on the plane, moved only to drink. I will be on a 10 hr flight to London in April and plan to do the same, and if I do decide to eat anything on the plane I will be keeping my mask on in between bites.

Posted by
797 posts

I'd say whatever you are comfortable with. I took my mask off since I'm not able to chew very well with a mask on. But then I'm a fast eater. If I paused for a period of time in my eating, I put it back on. And I drink lots of water on a flight, so no going without that. I get sick if I become dehydrated.

Posted by
6205 posts

I flew from Idaho to Hawaii recently, and I took off my mask once to eat quickly and then put it back on. I don’t like to touch my mask very often to lessen the times I’m inadvertently touching the inside of it.

EDIT: Guess I should have explained it better… I don’t want to touch the inside of my mask when I also touch the outside to take it off…and anything else I’ve previously been touching that’s on my hands and will be transferred to the inside of my mask.

Posted by
1521 posts

"very often to lessen the times I’m inadvertently touching the inside of it."

Why are you worried about touching the inside of your mask? Anything accumulated on it there came from your own body. What you should be concerned about is touching the outside of your mask as that is where you may have something (the Covid virus??) that came from someone else.

Posted by
2422 posts

Keep in mind, you will have no control over the people around you. On my flight back from Zurich to Chicago this past Sept, I was behind a family that had to be told repeatedly by the flight crew to pull their masks up. The flight crew did the best they could, but eventually gave up. And they had some small kids that were not wearing masks. So, make sure you’re comfortable flying if those around you are not as compliant as you might be.

Posted by
175 posts

Thanks so much for your input. As I have a few months to go, I will reevaluate the situation in terms of infection rate and any new variant that might crop up (hopefully NOT!) If we are in a less contagious phase I will be a little more liberal in loosening my mask for a brief period of noshing. Thanks, again!

Posted by
529 posts

Keep in mind, you will have no control over the people around you.

To chime in on this note, I have taken two international round-trip flights since COVID, both to Spain -- once in August 2021 and once this past January 2022, on a mix of Iberia and American Airlines flights.

On all four of these flights during mealtimes, everyone that was eating around me kept their mask down/took their mask off the entire time they were eating. I didn't see anyone repeatedly raise and lower their masks as they ate. This included me (which I was personally comfortable with -- in August I had been vaccinated and by January I had both been boosted and had had a mild breakthrough case in December well before my trip.)

On the other hand, people were eating at a reasonable pace and generally put their mask on as soon as they were finished with the meal -- there didn't seem to be anyone deliberately picking at their meal to extend the "mask-less" time. So there's that.

Posted by
175 posts

Carrie, thanks for bringing up the possibility of noncompliance -- not in a major way where they end up duct taping a billignerant, possibly intoxicated individual to their seat but rather a mild mannered family that is somewhat loose in their masking especially with small children. Maybe I'm just trying to block out the possibility of something like that happening.

Posted by
729 posts

The suggestion I've read is to raise your mask from your chin to above your mouth to eat/drink but not lower your mask from your nose.

Posted by
2110 posts

I've only been on a domestic trip, last fall when numbers were somewhat low.
The airlines have said that their filters are good, and I made sure the air was at the highest setting including while I ate my meal, which I didn't linger over. I plan to do the same when I travel to England in April.

Posted by
181 posts

On my Delta flight from Atl - FCO, the rules were strict and enforced. During meal time, you pulled your mask down, took a bite and pulled your mask back up. For drinks, masks were pulled down long enough to take a drink and immediately pulled back up.

I prefer not to eat airline food, so the practice didn’t bother me.

My husband took a recent United flight to Montana and during meal service (first class), masks were down the entire food service.

Posted by
6103 posts

I've flown twice in the Covid era, one round trip across the US and one round trip to Europe. Delta's rule was to remove the mask only to insert food or drink, then put it back to chew or swallow. I tried this but the mask kept slipping around while I chewed. (Maybe too big bites?) After awhile I just removed it for the meal, as others around me seemed to be doing too. I don't recall Lufthansa's rule, probably the same, but I just ate without the mask and put it back on. This felt like a reasonable way to behave. Having tested negative before these flights and not gotten sick after them, I felt OK about my in-flight practices, and certainly no flight attendant showed any interest.

I try to be careful everywhere. I expect the air filters on planes make them safer than airports or stores or restaurants, but I could be wrong. To the OPs I suggest you try the bite-and-cover method, but remove the mask for the meal if it helps you get the eating done. Unless of course an attendant tells you otherwise. By late spring we'll hopefully be able to relax a little more, and hopefully you'll have a good flight and trip.

Posted by
9749 posts

My most recent flight, an Air France from Paris to Detroit in December, we were specifically asked not to remove our masks but just to lower the mask only as we were taking a bite or a sip and raise it back into place between bites and sips. Truly not a bad ideas as Omicron was just beginning and it's not that difficult to do. A little sloppy with salad greens and dressing, though.

Four previous transatlantic flights on Air France and Delta since the beginning of the pandemic, we removed our masks for the meal.

Posted by
3763 posts

Simplest rule is, do what the FAs tell you to do. Rules and practices change. I flew to France and back on Delta just pre-Omicron and everyone was on the honor system, if not eating or drinking keep your mask on. And we all did.

Posted by
16077 posts

Since COVID began I have been on no less than 20 individual flights. Generally speaking people took off their mask and ate. Then put it back on. I can not think of having seen someone pull it down, stick a fork in, pull it back up. But I am sure some do. On some flights the announcement requested that people on the same row take turns eating. Never saw that happen, never saw it being enforced. One time, on one flight, the flight attendant announced that if someone used drinking slow as an excuse for keeping their mask down that they would be banned from future flights. She was a bit rude in the announcement and as a result I am only flying Southwest when I have no other choice.

Posted by
1427 posts

On my flight home in November (91/2 hour flight = 10 1/2+ hours on the plane), people were removing their masks to eat and drink. In fact, the ones behind me were drinking for the entire flight, so they wouldn't have to wear their masks. (I heard them discussing this.) Therefore, I double-masked (Kn95 with cloth mask over top) and did not remove them at all and did not eat or drink for the entire flight, since I felt it was unsafe to do so.

So, for my flight in May, I plan to bring one of those face shield thingies and use that when I want to eat or drink, but keep my KN95 on for the rest of the time.

Posted by
2766 posts

You can remove the mask for the duration of your meal. Whether you want to or not us up to you. What I’ve heard of as a possible option is to remove it while eating - but eat after the majority of people have finished and put their masks back on. Sure there will still be some maskless people, but if there are 20 people eating at 6PM and 5 mask-avoiders or slow eaters at 7PM, the odds are better with fewer maskless people. This works when there’s meal service and most people eat at the same time. Doesn’t work when there’s no set meal and everyone just eats their own snacks whenever.