With the evolving health crisis, safety has been a top priority worldwide, especially for the airline industry, which has been as flexible as bamboo in light of the current situation. As communities are reopening and travel restrictions are starting to relax, people are starting to take to the skies. More than ever, people are curious to know how airlines are responding to maintain the safety of its employees and passengers. For example, American Airlines now requires all passengers to wear face coverings from the gate to onboard.
We wanted to share key steps airlines are taking to keep travelers safe and contain the spread so that you know what to expect when you travel and can feel confident that airlines are working hard to ensure your safety. We've also shared information on hotel safety and hygiene measures during COVID-19.
As always, NexTravel Support is here for you - if you have any questions on the latest airline policies and travel safety procedures, feel free to reach out to us!
Airlines' Approach to COVID-19 Travel
Booking & Changes
Airlines have extended the ticket validity of air credits and miles status. All new bookings have the booking with confidence policy, in which travelers can change their flight without having to pay the usual $200 change fee. This gives travelers the flexibility to change their bookings during this time of uncertainty.
At the Airport
Passengers may be required to wear a protective face mask prior to entering the gate. Signs and floor markers recommending social distancing are placed almost everywhere. TSA is currently allowing travelers to bring up to 12 ounces container of hand sanitizer and alcohol or anti-bacterial wipes. Instead of placing personal items such as belts, accessories, etc. in a bin for inspection, TSA now allows travelers to put them inside their carry-on bags. Make sure to allot extra time for additional screening, such as temperature checking or filling out a health questionnaire, or long wait times, as there may be limited ticket counters to help prevent spread.
Make sure to use the restroom before you go to the airport to reduce your exposure to public surfaces. Even so, you might still need to use a public restroom at the airport while you wait, but you can take precautions. Bring your own essentials, such as toilet paper (or wet wipes), soap, and hand sanitizer. Use a biodegradable toilet seat cover and paper or tissue to touch the door handle.
Contactless boarding is highly recommended by airlines through online or check-in on their mobile app. Some airlines, such as United, are temporarily shutting down self-service kiosks to reduce touch points, while others, such as jetBlue, are disinfecting kiosks and counters more frequently. Passengers may also be required to fill in a form or questionnaire in relation to COVID-19 (likely for contact tracing purposes).
Thanks to HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) filters, aircraft are 99.97% protected from dust particles, viruses and bacteria, including coronavirus. Therefore, most viruses and germs do not spread easily on flights. This filter is widely used in hospitals as well to protect from diseases.
Passengers are also encouraged to bring their own meals and beverages before boarding to limit close interactions.
Further, other than reducing their flight services, airlines have also limited capacity on a flight. Delta and Alaska, have blocked their middle seats to allow physical distancing. Southwest is allowing travelers to sit together only if they are traveling together.
Aircraft with 3-3 configuration:
Sourced from The Points Guy
Aircraft are thoroughly sanitized after landing to ensure the next set of passengers to board the flight has nothing to worry about. Airlines have enhanced their cleaning procedures with disinfectant. United Airlines uses high-tech cleaning technology, electrostatic spraying, on all aircraft before departure.
As a resource, we are providing the links below for the most up-to-date information on major U.S. airlines and their respective COVID-19 safety measures during the pandemic:
Hawaiian Airlines (Aircraft)
Hawaiian Airlines (At the Airport)
Personal Hygiene Still Comes First!
While the airlines do their part, it’s still important to take care of yourself. Simple good hygiene measures can help protect your health and everyone else's.
Avoid touching your face, eyes, nose and mouth. When coughing or sneezing, don’t use your hands to cover as it can touch anything. Instead, cover your mouth and nose with your elbow or tissue. Don’t forget to dispose of your used tissue properly and immediately.
Wash, wash, wash your hands. Your skin is the first line of defense against harmful germs! Washing your hands religiously can help prevent the spread of an illness. According to the CDC, we must scrub our hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds by singing the full happy birthday song, twice.
Keep your distance. Not only when coughing or sneezing, maintain a distance of at least 6 feet from other individuals. Keep in mind though that the guidelines may differ in some countries. For example, Australia requires 1.5 meters (approximately 5 feet) whereas the UK requires 2-meters.
Bring hand sanitizer everywhere! You might be stuck in a place where you can’t wash your hands. As an alternative, make sure to have hand sanitizer on-hand with at least 60% alcohol content. Here are some trustworthy sanitizing options.