How Airlines Are Changing Their In-Flight Rules
After coming to a near standstill due to the coronavirus outbreak, the air travel industry is turning its collective attention to what it will take to get passengers flying again. The first step: making fliers feeling safe in the confined space of an airplane with new onboard regulations.
In addition to increased sanitizing procedures, airlines across the globe are changing their boarding protocols, are allotting more space for fliers onboard planes, and have begun mandating passengers and flight crew wear personal protective gear, like face masks and gloves.
Face masks in particular have been widely endorsed across the industry in recent weeks. The Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, which represents 50,000 flight attendants, has called upon the Department of Transportation and Health and Human Services to make masks a requirement for all air passengers nationwide. Similarly, the International Air Transport Association and U.S. Travel Association have both released guidelines for passengers and crew to wear masks, as well as other changes to the check-in and boarding processes to allow for social distancing during travel.
Here are the latest policies among individual airlines.
Starting May 15, Air Canada will begin no-contact infrared temperature screenings for all passengers. Any flier with a fever—a temperature of 99.5 degrees or higher—will not be allowed to board. Following an order from Canada's Minister of Transport, Air Canada has also required masks or facial coverings for all passengers since April 20. Coverings must be worn over the mouth and nose while at check-in, during the boarding process, and during flight. While on board the aircraft, the masks may be removed for eating and drinking, if the emergency oxygen is deployed, or if flight attendants deem adequate physical distance can be maintained in-flight. Customers must bring their own face coverings, but they "do not need to be medical masks—any face covering including a scarf or similar item is acceptable," the airline's policy says.
Air Canada has also adjusted its boarding process to minimize potential contact between passengers by allowing fewer people to board at a time, and its gate agents are re-seating fliers to maintain social distancing.
Masks will be compulsory for all Air France passengers starting May 11. The airline says it will be contacting all customers on upcoming flights via email or text to remind them to have one or more facial coverings for their trip. All crew members must also wear masks. When possible, Air France is also spacing fliers out. "On most flights, the current low load factors make it possible to separate customers as required," the airline says.
Starting May 11, all passengers on all flights must wear face coverings. (Flight attendants have been required to wear masks since May 1.) As supplies and operational conditions allow, the airline will distribute face masks and sanitizing wipes to all customers. "Very young passengers and those with conditions that prevent them from wearing a face covering will be exempt from the requirement," American's policy says.
The carrier's gate agents are reassigning seats to create more space between fliers (family groups can be placed together, however). American says through May 31, it "will not assign 50 percent of main cabin middle seats or seats near flight attendant jump seats on every flight, and will only use those middle seats when necessary."
As of May 4, Delta began requiring all passengers to wear face masks at all points throughout their journey. Face coverings are "required starting in the check-in lobby and across Delta touch-points including Delta Sky Clubs, boarding gate areas, jet bridges, and on board the aircraft for the duration of the flight–except during meal service," according to the airline's policy. Delta employees will undergo temperature checks and must also wear masks when within six feet of of others. Passengers will be reminded of the new rules via email and through the Delta app. "We continue to encourage customers to bring their own face covering when traveling with us, supplies will be available for customers who need them." (People unable to keep a face covering in place, including children, are exempt from the new regulations.)
Delta is also reducing the total number of passengers on each flight and blocking middle seats in economy, Comfort Plus, and Premium Select cabins. The airline has also changed its boarding process to load the plane row by row from back to front. (However Delta One, first class, and Diamond Medallion members can board at any time.)
All passengers have been required to wear masks on board Emirates flights since April. The airline has also recently introduced new protective equipment guidelines for its cabin crew, which includes a disposable gown over their uniforms, mask, goggles, and gloves. At Dubai International Airport, Emirates' home base, all customers and employees must wear masks and gloves. For some flights, the airline has partnered with the Dubai Health Authority to conduct rapid result blood tests for coronavirus prior to boarding.
Additionally, Emirates is placing vacant seats between individuals or family groups on board its planes. In-flight food and beverage service has been reduced to personal bento boxes to reduce contact between crew and passengers. For more details, visit the airline's social distancing page.
The first U.S. airline to mandate that all passengers wear masks, JetBlue announced new rules on April 27 that went into effect on May 4. The policy states that fliers must wear face coverings during all stages of travel, including check-in, boarding, in flight, deplaning, and throughout the airport. The only fliers exempt from the new rules, according to the airline's statement, will be small children who "are not able to maintain a face covering." Masks are also compulsory for crew members. The airline has also limited the number of seats available for sale "on most flights," which allows additional space between passengers who are not traveling together.
The Lufthansa Group began requiring passengers bring their own facial coverings on flights since May 4. "A reusable fabric mask is recommended, but all other types of coverings, such as disposable masks or scarves, are also sound alternatives," says a statement from the airline group, which includes Lufthansa, Swiss, and Austrian Airlines, as well as budget carrier Eurowings. The carriers' flight attendants will also be required to wear masks through at least August 31.
Lufthansa Group airlines are also blocking the middle seat in economy and economy plus cabins. The group contends that this practice "will no longer remain a necessity, as the facial covering provides the necessary protection," but will continue allocating fliers as far apart as possible while low load factors allow.
As of May 3, Southwest has required its customer-facing employees to wear face masks. That new rule will be extended to passengers on May 11. They will be required to wear their own facial covering in order to board a flight with the airline. If a passenger forgets a mask, the airline will provide one. Additionally, sanitizing wipes will be available upon request to passengers on board each flight.
The airline has no plans to change its well-known open seating policy, but it will temporarily reduce the number of passengers on each flight. It's also tweaking its famous alphanumeric boarding process: Fliers will still board sequentially, but in smaller groups of 10 at a time. Flight attendants will also guide passengers on how to deplane while maintaining social distancing. The airline has completely suspended drink and snack service until further notice.
Effective May 4, all passengers must wear a facial covering on United flights. "We encourage customers to bring their own face coverings, but our customer service agents will be able to provide them if you don't have one when you board our aircraft," the airline's rules say. "Certain customers—such as those who have a medical condition that prevents them from wearing a face covering, those who cannot put on or remove a face covering themselves and small children—will not be required to wear one on board."
Through at least the end of May, United is limiting seat selections in all cabins. Fliers won't be able to select middle seats or seats next to each other, and seats will be alternated to maintain a safe distance across aisles, too. The airline has also moved primarily to prepackaged snacks and sealed beverage options on board.
this article originally appeared on cntraveler.com