Here's what US airlines are doing to address coronavirus concerns

Mar 12 2020, 12:53 am

As the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases continues to increase across the world, many travellers are anxious about going anywhere during the ongoing pandemic.

As such, US airlines are doing all that they can to implement top-of-the-line precautionary measures and disclosing their various policies and methods of sterilization to ensure and ease the minds of passengers.

“Our teams are in daily contact with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the World Health Organization (WHO), federal agencies and other global health organizations to share the most up-to-the-minute information,” United Airlines posted in a message to their customers on its website.

“What’s more, United has a team of in-house professionals, including an industrial hygienist who reviews and tests cleaning products and a corporate medical team who are working around the clock. United also partners with International SOS/MedAire, an organization that gives all employees ready access to an emergency department doctor for advice and assistance when they are on business outside their home country.”


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The post explains further that passengers who are scheduled to travel between March 10 and April 30, 2020, will not incur a change fee no matter when they purchased their ticket or when they are scheduled to travel.

This policy is an extension of a previous one that waived all change fees for tickets purchased between March 3 and March 31, 2020.

Additionally, the company provided more details surrounding how they are cleaning their aircraft amid the pandemic, explaining how they wipe down all hard surfaces that staff and passengers alike could come in contact with.

“United uses an effective, high-grade disinfectant and multi-purpose cleaner,” the post states.

“When we are advised by the CDC of an employee or customer who has travelled onboard and who is potentially exhibiting coronavirus symptoms, that aircraft is taken out of service and sent through a full decontamination process that includes our standard cleaning procedures plus washing ceilings and overhead bins and scrubbing the interior.”

The aircraft also come equipped with modern air circulation systems, like those in hospitals, which utilize a high-efficiency (HEPA) filter to purify the air, removing upwards of “99.7% of airborne particles.”

The airline also plans on using electrostatic fogger to sanitize the surfaces and air within the cabin for international arrivals to hubs in the United States, Honolulu, and Guam.


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American Airlines recently issued a statement on their website regarding their cleaning methods.

“Our cleaning practices have always met or exceeded all CDC guidelines,” the statement explains.

“We have a strong, structured cleaning regimen, and our aircraft are cleaned each day at key touch points on their journeys with an EPA-approved disinfectant.”

Additionally, international flights and aircraft that spend extended amounts of time on the ground receive a 30-step cleaning package every day.

Aircraft also come equipped with HEPA filters.

In terms of inflight dining and beverage services, all equipment on international flights goes through additional sanitation processes and disinfectant procedures.

This process includes all cutlery, dishes, and glassware undergoing sanitation and disinfecting before washing.


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Similar to United, Delta Airlines will also be waiving change fees for customers whose plans were impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. Passengers travelling both internationally and domestically through April 30 will not incur a change fee if their tickets were issued before March 9, as well as customers purchasing flights between March 1 and March 31.

Delta is also permitting customers to make a one-time change to travel plans free of charge if those plans include the cities of Shanghai and Beijing in China (through May 31), Seoul, South Korea (through May 31), and all locations in Italy (through May 31).

The airline is additionally reducing its capacity on flights due to the current decrease in demand, with domestic US flights being trimmed by 10-15% and Latin American flights by 5%. They will also be decreasing the number of flights to various Trans-Atlantic and Trans-Pacific destinations.

While the government has not issued any travel advisories to the locations in which they offer flights, budget airline JetBlue posted a message to their customers on their website explaining their practices surrounding coronavirus.


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“While authorities have not issued travel restrictions to the locations we fly, we are committed to the health and safety of both our crew members and customers, and we are working directly with health and security officials as well as industry leaders for updates and best practices,” the post reads.

The messages they outline are similar to those implemented by United, Delta, and American in regards to cleaning practices, change and cancellation fees, and inflight services.

However, their post also provides details surrounding rules wherein passengers will not be allowed to travel to specific destinations, including those who have been to China, Iran, Italy, or South Korea in the past 14 days. The rules vary depending on the specific destinations.

Finally, Alaska Airlines published a detailed post to its website featuring answers to frequently asked questions regarding their practices implemented to help prevent the further spread of coronavirus.


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Notably, the airline created a video for passengers responding to the questions regarding the air quality on board their aircraft. Alaska also utilizes HEPA filters.

“It’s not a self-contained tube with the same air for a six-hour flight,” Constance von Muehlen, the senior vice president of maintenance and engineering, explains in the post.

“The air in a cabin comes from the top and flows out from your feet. In fact, there’s a large portion of air that comes directly from outside. Within a three-minute period, you get completely new air in the entire cabin.”

Understandably, numbers within the travel industry as a whole have decreased as a result of the coronavirus outbreak, and US airlines are not the only ones experiencing the drawbacks.

All they can hope for is to continue doing what their doing, develop and evolve their sanitization and customer service policies accordingly to any changes, and assure passengers that they are doing everything they can to ensure their safety.

Emily RumballEmily Rumball

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