Coronavirus and Meetings
to see Northstar Meetings Group’s comprehensive and continuing coverage of how coronavirus is affecting meetings.
Updated May 11, 2020, 12:00 p.m. EDT
With shelter-in-place orders expiring and businesses reopening, airlines are implementing new safety standards in an effort to assuage traveler fears and get people back in the air.
The initiatives follow new cleaning protocols that have been launched across the hotel industry, such as those announced by major brands like Hyatt, Marriott and Hilton. Now, major airlines are joining in and revamping their hygiene practices in the age of COVID-19. The new standards include enhanced cleanings of aircraft, as well as temperature checks and face-mask requirements for travelers.
Still, the American Association of Airport Executives says Congress must step in and set federal guidelines for airports and airlines in order to ensure traveler safety nationwide and boost consumer confidence in the aviation industry.
"Airports are already working diligently to clean and sanitize their facilities, and they are taking steps to promote a touchless travel experience,” said AAAE president and CEO Todd Hauptli. "But we need clear and consistent processes and procedures throughout the aviation system so that passengers know what to expect regardless of the airline or airport they happen to choose for their travel."
Air Canada will soon become the first airline in the Americas to introduce temperature checks. The move is part of the company's new Air Canada CleanCare+ program.
Beginning May 15, all customers will be subject to an infrared temperature check at the airport. In addition to the noninvasive procedure, passengers will be asked to complete a health questionnaire. Travelers deemed unfit to fly will be rebooked on another flight at no cost but will need to obtain medical clearance before they can travel.
All Air Canada customers and employees are required to wear face masks. Additional personal protective equipment, such as gloves, are available to staff members but are not required.
Disposable customer-care kits, which include complimentary hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes, will be distributed to all passengers. In addition, the total number of seats sold per flight will be capped and the Canadian carrier will block adjacent seats in the economy cabin from May 15 to June 30 to encourage social distancing.
High-touch areas at check-in and at the gates will be disinfected frequently. A hospital-grade disinfectant will be used to sanitize aircrafts before every flight. Thorough cleanings will be conducted nightly and electrostatic sprayers will continue to be used to ensure the highest hygiene standards. Only bottled water and pre-packaged meals will be served on flights that offer complimentary food and beverage service.
"We have been a leader in progressively introducing new measures in response to COVID-19, such as introducing personal protective equipment for our employees and being the first North American carrier to require face coverings for customers. We are now the first airline in the Americas to administer pre-flight temperature checks system-wide," said Air Canada president and CEO Calin Rovinescu. "With Air Canada CleanCare+, we are introducing a comprehensive new program to give each customer added assurance for their well-being throughout all stages of their journey -- and we intend to continue enhancing Air Canada CleanCare+ where we can with best practices from around the world, including increased use of screening tools, such as blood oxygen level testing, as they become available."
Alaska Airlines has compiled a travel advisory page, where updates on travel restrictions, enhanced cleaning procedures and changes to in-flight services are available.
The carrier will join other major airlines in requiring guests to wear face masks on May 11. The masks must be worn throughout the airport and in flight. Additional masks will be available for customers who fail to bring their own. Alaska Airlines employees who cannot keep six feet of social distancing are also required to wear masks.
The use of fingerprint scanners during check-in has been paused. Instead, guests are encouraged to hold out their boarding pass to staff to scan, rather than passing their phone or boarding pass directly to staff members.
The airline announced it will be cutting back its food and beverage options. The reductions will vary based on flight length and destination and may change depending on guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Currently, flights of up to 350 miles will have no food or beverage service. Flights longer than 350 miles will have limited food and beverage options, including pre-packaged snacks and individual bottled water. Pre-order meals and in-flight tablet rental service have been temporarily suspended.
All Alaska Airlines lounge locations have been closed, expect for the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport lounge in concourse D. It will remain open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily.
American Airlines now requires all flight attendants on mainline and regional flights to wear face masks. A drawer in the galley of every mainline flight has been dedicated to personal protective equipment, including masks and sanitizing items.
The company said it will start distributing face masks and sanitizing wipes or gels to customers this month. The initiative will be expanded to all flights as supplies and operational conditions allow.
"We are looking out for our customers' well-being to give them peace of mind while they travel with us," said Kurt Stache, senior vice president of customer experience at American Airlines. "We're moving quickly on these enhancements and we'll continue to improve the travel experience for our customers and team members as we navigate these times together."
Every aircraft will be thoroughly cleaned with EPA-approved disinfectants on a daily basis. High-touch customer and team-member areas will also be cleaned before and after every flight. Public areas of the aircraft will be disinfected with electrostatic spraying.
According to American, the cabin air in all aircraft is changed every two to four minutes, on par with hospital standards. Many aircraft are also outfitted with High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters that remove airborne particulates while in flight. Cleaning of gate areas, ticket counters, passenger service counters, baggage service offices and team-member rooms has been increased. Social-distancing signs have been posted at gates and ticket counters.
Delta Air Lines
The new "Delta Clean" initiative introduces elevated cleaning measures that the carrier will implement for the long term.
"The highest levels of clean should not be reserved for times of crisis -- customers deserve to feel confident and safe whenever they decide to travel," said Bill Lentsch, Delta's chief customer experience officer. "That's why we are extending our overall safety focus to include our new standard of clean."
The new guidelines include interior aircraft fogging with a high-grade EPA-registered disinfectant before every flight. An extensive checklist will be used during aircraft cleaning, with a focus on high-touch areas. Before each flight, a customer service agent and a flight leader will conduct a spot check to make sure the aircraft meets the Delta Clean standards. If not, a cleaning crew will be asked to return for additional sanitization.
Starting May 4, Delta will require all customers to wear a face mask or appropriate face covering. Hand sanitizer will be available to customers at various touchpoints. In addition, the airline noted that employee workspaces will be regularly disinfected and treated with the same care.
Dubai-based carrier Emirates, which operated 3,600 flights weekly prior to the pandemic,
implemented new measures late last month
to ensure the health and safety of its employees and customers.
All cabin crew,
boarding agents and ground staff in direct contact with passengers must don
personal protective equipment, including protective disposable gowns
over uniforms, safety visors, masks and gloves.
On flights, passengers are required to wear their masks and gloves throughout their journey from
check-in until they disembark. Other protocols include the removal of magazines and
other print reading material; meals are now limited to bento-style
boxes, to reduce contact between the crew and passengers.
Carry-on items allowed in the cabin are
limited to laptop, handbag, briefcase or baby items. All other items have to be
All Emirates aircraft now undergo enhanced cleaning and disinfection
processes after each journey; at press time, details on the new cleaning protocol were not outlined.
Following in the steps of Air Canada, Frontier Airlines will implement temperature checks for all passengers and staff members starting June 1.
A touchless thermometer will be used to conduct the screenings. Anyone with a temperature of 100.4 degrees or higher will be denied boarding. If the departure time allows, customers can rest for a little and then get their temperatures rechecked. If the reading is still too high, they will be rebooked on another flight for a later date.
In addition, all travelers will need to complete a health acknowledgement form to certify that:
- Neither they nor anyone in their household has displayed COVID-19 related symptoms in the past 14 days.
- They will check their temperature before heading to the airport and will not travel if they have a fever.
- They will wash their hands before boarding the flight.
The new safety protocols were announced shortly after the discount airline received heavy criticism for planning to charge passengers extra to keep the middle seat next to them empty. The social-distancing fee, which was expected to run between $39 to $89, has since been rescinded.
Frontier Airlines currently requires all passengers to wear a face mask at ticket counters, gate areas and while aboard the aircraft. The carrier also uses fogging to apply hospital-grade disinfectant to nearly all surfaces in the aircraft, including lavatories, galleys, air vents, seats, overhead bins and more. According to Frontier, all aircrafts are equipped with HEPA filters and the cabin air is replaced every three minutes.
Hawaiian Airlines has reduced its long-haul and neighbor island schedules in coordination with a 14-day mandatory quarantine for all arrivals into and within the state. All remaining flights are subject to the carrier's new health measures.
This includes a requirement that guests must wear a face mask that covers their mouth and nose from check-in at the airport to deplaning at the destination. The new rule will take effect on May 8. Young children and guests with medical conditions that prevent them from wearing masks will be exempt. Airport employees and flight attendants are already required to wear masks.
The airline will also modify its boarding process beginning on May 8. Guests will be asked to remain seated at the gate until their row is called, and boarding will begin from the rear of the aircraft in groups of three to five rows at a time. Gate agents can pause boarding as needed to prevent crowding. Adjoining seats in all aircrafts will be blocked to increase personal space between customers.
Sanitation wipes will be distributed to guests. Meanwhile, detailed cleaning and disinfecting protocols have been added between flights and the airline has begun applying an electrostatic treatment at least once a day to its aircrafts.
The airline's airport lounges have been closed and in-flight services, such as the drink and hot towel service, have been suspended. Hawaiian Airlines airport employees have been trained to identify and assist people with COVID-19 symptoms while minimizing the risk of contagion.
JetBlue is headquartered in Long Island City, N.Y., in the state that has been hardest hit by COVID-19. The airline, which operates more than 1,000 daily flights, is adjusting its hygiene protocols accordingly.
As of May 4, all passengers are required to wear a face covering. JetBlue crew members must also wear masks, along with medical-grade gloves during service delivery.
The carrier is limiting complimentary food-and-beverage service to a single snack offering and water. The sale of buy-onboard products, such as beer, wine, EatUp boxes and earbuds, will be temporarily suspended. The Pantry, JetBlue's communal grab-and-go snack-and-beverage area, will no longer be available. Food-and-beverage offerings, however, will be served as part of the airline's premium travel experience, JetBlue Mint. All glassware and mugs will be replaced with single-use cups.
Since late March, the airline has limited the number of seats available on most flights. Rows near crew member jump seats have been blocked off to create buffer zones for crew and customer safety.
All JetBlue aircraft are equipped with hospital-grade HEPA filters, and the cabin air is changed roughly every three minutes. The airline has intensified aircraft cleaning each night and extended ground time during the day for disinfecting purposes.
Southwest Airlines unveiled new health measures on May 1. The initiative, titled "Southwest Promise," aims to assure customers that safety has and always will be the airline's top priority.
The new cleanliness standards apply to the airports, as well as the flights. Southwest spaces at airports, including ticket counters, gates and baggage claims, will be cleaned multiple times a day. In addition, Plexiglas shields are being installed at ticket counters and gate podiums, and airport signage and floor markers will be used to encourage social distancing in the gate areas.
As of May 2, boarding groups are being limited to 10 people. The number of passengers on each plane will also be reduced. Southwest Airlines said customers will be allowed to pick their own seats and certain sections, such as the middle seat, will not be blocked off so that families can sit together. Beverage and snack service have been suspended for the time being.
All customer-facing employees are required to wear face masks as of May 3. Customers will also be expected to wear face masks starting May 11. Southwest will have extra face masks and sanitizing wipes on hand if customers forget to bring their own.
In mid-April, Southwest began using electrostatic sprayers to apply disinfectants and antimicrobial protectant to every interior surface of an aircraft. The sprays are designed to kill viruses and create a protective shield for 30 days. The surfaces are also cleaned nightly with broad-spectrum disinfectants and multipurpose cleaners. Particular attention is being paid to high-touch areas, including every tray table, armrest, seatbelt, window, air vent and button. Additional cleanings between flights have been added, and HEPA filters are used to circulate air and remove airborne particles in the cabin of every flight.
Spirit announced it will require all guests and staff to wear face coverings starting May 11. The discount airline will also begin capping the total number of seats sold per flight. Any guests showing symptoms of a respiratory illness or traveling form a restricted area may be denied boarding.
The Spirit mobile app offers contactless check-in, and self-bag tagging is available at most airports.
Electrostatic cleaning devices are being deployed to disinfect Spirit ticket counters, gates, break rooms, maintenance centers and crew bases in high-traffic airports.
Spirit has also expanded its aircraft cleaning protocols with a focus on highly frequented areas, including tray tables, handles and arm rests. All Spirit aircrafts come equipped with HEPA filters and middle seats have been blocked on most flights.
United has put together a coronavirus safety hub with the latest updates on what the carrier is doing to keep customers and employees safe. The new safety standards have been implemented in coordination with the airline's medical director.
Changes include the implementation of electrostatic spraying on all inbound long-haul international flights and mainline overnight aircraft at U.S. hubs. In June, electrostatic spraying will be expanded to all aircraft. In addition, all mainline aircraft are equipped with HEPA filters and customer touchpoints and surfaces are cleaned throughout the day, including a thorough wipe-down of lavatories, tray tables, window shades and armrests.
All United crew members are required to wear face masks, as are all customers as of May 4. Customers who do not have their own mask will be provided with one.
To minimize contact between crew and customers, United is switching to primarily prepackaged foods, sealed beverages and disposable cups. Buy-onboard service has been suspended, along with hot towel service and pick-up pans used to collect trash during flights.
Social-distancing measures have been implemented at the airport, including signage and six-feet markers at ticket booths. Sneeze guards at check-in counters and gate podiums are expected to be added shortly.