Updated October 25, 2021
1. What should I know about booking a flight?
If you find a flight at a fare you feel is reasonable, book it. Airlines are struggling to meet demand. As a result, tickets on some flights are selling quickly. Remember, too, airlines have eliminated change fees on all but their lowest-priced basic economy fares so in many cases you will be able to change your ticket later. (More about that in the answer to question 5 below.)
2. Do I need a COVID-19 test to go through the airport?
No, a COVID-19 test result is not required to go through the airport. But your destination may require either proof of vaccination or a negative test result. (More on that in the answer to question 4.)
3. I know I need a COVID test, can I get it at the airport?
Yes, COVID-19 tests are available in the terminal at Tucson International Airport (TUS). You can choose to take either a viral or PCR test for free with results in 24-48 hours or a rapid antigen test for $79 with results available within an hour. You can also choose to take both tests for $79. While walk-ups are accepted, for efficiency and to avoid crowding, pre-registration is encouraged here. Added: The Testing Center is in baggage claim on the lower level near carousels 4 (Alaska Airlines) and 5 (Southwest Airlines). It is open 7:30 a.m.-4 p.m. daily.
The tests are being offered through a partnership with the Pima County Health Department, the Arizona Department of Health Services and Paradigm Laboratories.
4. I have not been vaccinated yet, can I travel?
That depends on your destination. Within the United States, Hawaii and Puerto Rico require vaccination documentation be submitted before you arrive. Otherwise, at check-in airlines will require you to attest that you are not sick and have not been exposed to COVID-19. For international travel, check your destination and review the guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) here. Remember too, the United States has requirements for anyone coming into the country on an international flight. More on that in the answer to question 5.
5. I'm coming to the United States on an international flight, what do I need to do?
Requirements are changing as of November 8. Until then all U.S. citizens and Legal Permanent Residents ages 2 and older must present a negative result from a COVID-19 test taken within three calendar days of the day of departure or have proof of recovery from the virus within the last 90 days. Airlines are required by U.S. law to deny boarding to any passenger who cannot furnish the documentation at the point of departure for the international flight.
Starting November 8, U.S. residents who are fully vaccinated will be required to show proof of vaccination plus a negative result from a COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of departure of the international flight. U.S. residents under the age of 18 are not required to be vaccinated but still must present proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken 72 hours prior to departure. Unvaccinated U.S. residents 18 and older will be required to present a negative result from a COVID-19 test taken within 24 hours of departure on the international flight.
Non-citizen and non-immigrant air travelers will be permitted into the United States as of November 8 provided they are able to prove they are fully vaccinated using a World Health Organization-approved vaccine. The proof must be presented prior to boarding the flight that will take them into the United States. Vaccination is not required for those under 18 but they will have to show proof of negative COVID-19 test.
It will be up to airlines to develop plans on how they will adhere to the new requirements.
The U.S. Department of State has information here.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has answers to questions here.
6. Under the new rules, can I now fly to Tucson and cross the land border into Mexico?
Yes, but then if you are a U.S. resident you could do that previously provided you were traveling on business. The new rules now officially permit tourism travel. The biggest change will allow more residents of Mexico to travel to the United States, which has long been an important part of the economy of Southern Arizona.
7. I'm worried about booking a flight, what if something happens to me?
If there has been a consumer benefit that has come over the past year it is that Alaska, American, Delta and United airlines have permanently ended change fees on all but their lowest priced basic economy fare tickets. And Delta is temporarily waiving fees for changes to basic economy fare tickets through December 31, 2021. Avelo and Southwest airlines do not charge change fees. Ultra-low fare airlines Allegiant, Frontier and Sun Country are keeping their regular change-fee policies except that Allegiant has temporarily reduced the fee to $25 per person, per flight segment. In all cases, passengers pay the difference if the fare for the new flight is higher than the original fare.
For specifics click the link for your airline:
8. I have an airline credit from 2020, how do I use it?
You should be able to go online and use the credit to make a new reservation. Review the confirmation you received from your airline for specific information such as your ticket number and the date of the original purchase or the date the credit was issued. Once you have that information, click on your airline’s name below for a link to begin making a new reservation. If you did not buy your ticket directly from an airline at TUS, contact the airline or service where you purchased the original ticket.
Delta Air Lines
Frontier Airlines – book your new flight and select “Frontier Credit” on the payments page to apply your credit
Southwest Airlines – book a flight as you would normally do (search by dollars, not points) and select Travel Funds on the payment screen to apply your credit
Sun Country Airlines
If you require additional help, phone numbers and email contact information for the airlines at TUS are here.
9. Where do I show my proof of vaccination?
It’s unlikely you will be asked to show your proof of vaccination while traveling. Hawaii and Puerto Rico are the only two domestic destinations requiring vaccine documentation and both require that it be submitted in advance, before beginning your journey. It is still a good idea to bring your vaccination card and keep it in a safe place, just in case. Information about international travel is in the answer to question 5 above.
10. I've been vaccinated and the CDC says I can go without a face mask, do I still need to wear one at the airport?
Yes, the federal order to wear a face mask at airports and on airline flights is still in effect for all persons ages 2 and older and has been extended to January 18, 2022.
11. But the CDC says I don't have to wear a mask everywhere at the airport, correct?
Yes, according to guidance updated June 10, 2021, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says face masks no longer need to be worn in outdoor settings at airports but are still required in indoor settings, such as in the terminal and on shuttles. Technically, the original federal requirement has not been changed and the CDC says until it can amend the order “it will exercise its enforcement discretion to not require wearing a mask in outdoor areas.” (Read the June 10 guidance here.)
12. What should I do if I have a flight in the next 24 hours?
Generally, do as you always would have done. Check-in for your flight remotely if you can and have your boarding passes either on your mobile device or printed when you arrive at the airport. (It is still possible to check-in at the airport, if necessary.) Bring and wear a face mask in the terminal and on your flights to comply with the federal mandate. You can check current status of today’s flights at TUS here.
13. Is TSA doing anything differently at the security checkpoints?
Yes, there are several changes. Among them, an individual can temporarily carry-on one larger liquid hand sanitizer container up to 12 ounces and food items in clear plastic bags. These items must be removed from your carry-on bag and screened separately. More about TSA changes on the TUS Security page here.
14. Should I arrive at the airport earlier than normal for my flight?
No, that hasn’t been necessary in most cases. Barring unforeseen circumstances or special requirements, arriving at TUS 90 minutes ahead of departure time should still be good.
15. I want to go to Tucson, what restrictions should I expect?
Mandates and restrictions have been lifted by local and state authorities. Visit Tucson has information here. Some performing arts venues are requiring proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test result.
16. I cannot wear a face mask, how do I get an exemption?
Reach out to your airline well in advance of your flight as documentation may need to be submitted several days before flight time and you may be required to take a pre-travel COVID-19 test. The federal mandate has a narrow exception for persons who cannot wear a mask for reasons related to a disability as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act. If approved, proper documentation must be brought to the airport for travel. The requirement to wear a compliant face covering applies to all passengers ages 2 and older at all airports and on all airlines in the United States.
17. What would be a "non-compliant" face mask?
Non-compliant face coverings include scarves, balaclavas, bandannas, neck gaiters, turtlenecks or other collars pulled up over the nose and mouth, masks made of materials with holes large enough to let light shine through such as mesh or lace and any mask with an exhalation valve or that has punctures. Face shields can be worn as an addition to a compliant face mask. Clear masks or cloth masks with a clear plastic panel may be used to facilitate communication with people who need to see a speaker’s mouth to understand speech.
18. How long are face masks going to be required when flying?
The federal mandate requiring that face masks be worn in airports and on airlines has been extended to January 18, 2022.
19. I lost my vaccination card, can I get a replacement?
Yes. If you received your vaccination through a pharmacy such as CVS Health, Fry’s or Walgreens, return to the location where you received your most recent dose and they should be able to print a new card from their electronic records. State health agencies also track vaccinations through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Immunization Information Systems. To get a replacement card in Arizona, complete the form here and return it to ASIISHelpDesk@azdhs.gov. More information is at Arizona State Immunization Information System or call (602) 364-3899.
20. What is a vaccine passport and do I need one to travel?
Vaccine passports are digital apps that allow users to upload their authenticated vaccination and other information to one place on their smartphone. For travel they are supposed to help expedite the airline check-in process and are mainly being used for international travel. The apps are free to download and while they can be helpful, they are not required for travel. It’s also important to know they cannot be used as substitutes for actual documentation so passengers still must bring passports and, if there is a question, their vaccination card. So far consumer reviews have been mixed about their functionality for travel.
At TUS, Alaska and American airlines are using an app called VeriFly, Delta has developed a digital platform called FlyReady and United Airlines is using one called CommonPass. Globally, about 50 member airlines of the International Air Transport Association are testing the IATA Travel Pass.