It seems like things in the travel space are changing at a rapid-fire pace these days. Now that we’re 9 months into the Pandemic, the vaccine is beginning to be distributed, and we’re on the cusp of a New Year, it’s a good time to check in on airlines’ travel policies regarding the virus. Here are how the three biggest airlines in the US are handling the situation right now and going forward into the New Year.
· Safety: American Airlines has a Clean Commitment policy which includes spraying planes weekly with electrostatic disinfectant, being the first airline to coat surfaces with SurfaceWise2 (which helps kill 99.9% of viruses on surfaces), providing Purell Hand Sanitizer in their lounges, and allowing for touchless check-in.
· Flexibility: Change fees have been eliminated for most flights, excluding Basic Economy fares and long-distance international flights.
· Requirements: Face coverings are required on flights for all passengers over the age of 2 (of course, the crew will be wearing them, too).
· Other Things to Know: The airline has temporarily stopped checking large pets, but small pets, service animals, ESAs can still fly in the cabin.
Delta Air Lines
· Safety: Delta has enacted the Delta CareStandard, meant to keep every step of the travel experience safe. This involves circulating all cabin air through a HEPA filter every 2-6 minutes, partnering with Lysol to disinfect surfaces, and getting the Mayo Clinic to review their service standards. Delta is one of the few airlines still blocking middle seats and limiting passengers aboard their flights (through March 30, 2021).
· Flexibility: Peace-of-Mind-Purchasing which eliminates change and cancellation fees on tickets purchased between March 1, 2020 and March 30, 2021 and other benefits.
· Requirements: Both customers and staff are required to wear face coverings on flights.
· Other Things to Know: To reduce contact, flight attendants will no longer be proactively assisting customers with lifting carry-on baggage into overhead bins.
· Safety: The Southwest Promise for safety is threefold: enhanced cleaning (electrostatic disinfectant sprays, anti-microbial surface coatings, and overnight deep-cleans), air filtration onboard (with HEPA air filters), and physical distancing measures (like modified boarding procedures and plexiglass and counters).
· Flexibility: Southwest already did not charge change and cancellation fees for their regular flights, but starting on September 8, 2020, they also started allowing travel credit from their nonrefundable Wanna Get Away® tickets to be used for up to one year from the original purchase date.
· Requirements: Everyone over the age of 2 must wear a mask on flights, and there are no medical exemptions. You’re asked to download a mobile boarding pass prior to arriving at the airport to limit making pre-flight contact with others.· Other Things to Know: Southwest is continually evaluating and adjusting its policies with advice from the following: Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health, The International Air Transport Association (IATA), Boeing, U.S. Department of Defense’s U.S. Transportation Command, and medical professionals and infectious disease experts who have been retained for advice during the pandemic.
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