The Safest Way To Eat On An Airplane

If you're going to be traveling during the holidays, you may be wondering if it's safe to take off your mask to eat. After being scaled back or completely halted early on in the pandemic, in-flight snacks and meals are finally back on most flights and airlines (via Eater). That means you can once again have something to eat and drink on your flight as you travel to your next destination — but is it safe?

According to a recent study published in the Journal of Travel Medicine, if passengers on a 12-hour flight take their masks off during a one-hour meal service, their risk of COVID-19 infection increases by 59% compared to a situation in which the masks stay on the whole time. However, it's not practical to expect passengers not to eat or drink for 12 hours straight. In fact, researchers found that the main cause for this increased risk is having passengers take off their masks at the same time.

Wait to take off your mask

That's why it's best to wait to take your mask off to eat until those around you have finished their meals and replaced their masks (via Best Life). This will provide you with an added layer of protection: That way, your mouth and nose will be covered while your fellow passengers enjoy their food.

"When the food first comes, the reaction is everyone drops the masks and eats the meal or the snack that they give you," Dr. Thomas Russo, a professor and chief of infectious diseases at the University at Buffalo, told Best Life. "What you should do instead is actually be patient. You wait until everyone's done and puts their mask back up, which usually takes somewhere between 15 and 30 minutes, and then that's when you should go ahead and eat your meal." If you want to be extra cautious, you can even put your mask back on in between bites. This can help protect you even when you're chewing. Ultimately, however, the overall goal is to keep your mask off as little as possible.