With Thanksgiving around the corner, the holiday travel season is nearly upon us. The holidays are always a very busy time for air travel, and even with COVID-19 keeping many folks from venturing out, that isn’t looking to change completely. While it will be a different travel landscape this year, plenty of people are still planning to head home for the holidays. Here’s how a few major airlines are preparing.
Delta recently released an article detailing their 4 “Cs” of holiday travel:
You can learn more about them on their website, but we’re summing up the main takeaways here. First, they are preparing for increased holiday demand by adding flights; promising to “operate more than 3,800 peak-day flights per day this Thanksgiving season.”
Second, for those concerned about COVID onboard, they are committed to maintaining their current policy of blocking off middle seats through at least January 6th. And if this is important to you, you should know that Delta and Alaska Airlines are the only two major US airlines with this policy through the holiday season. The airline also continues to disinfect high-touch surfaces daily and circulate cabin air through HEPA filters.
Southwest is making a change to their current COVID policy to prepare for increased holiday flight demand. Due to the pandemic, Southwest had been blocking out the middle seats on flights for months. However, they’ve just announced a plan to discontinue this practice.
Southwest is opening up middle seats to make more room for travelers. According to the airline, new information supports that full planes are just as safe as long as there are proper cleaning and ventilation protocols. They said “[Not selling middle seats] bridged us from the early days of the pandemic, when we had little knowledge about…the virus, to now. Today, aligned with science-based findings…we will resume selling all available seats for travel beginning Dec. 1, 2020.”
If you’re flying Southwest this holiday season, know that you may be on a full flight. Luckily, if you’d prefer to social distance on the plane, Southwest still has a very flexible change policy so that you can find a less crowded flight if needed.
American Airlines is preparing for the reality that the holiday travel season this year won’t see as many travelers as in years previous, so they’ve cut back their December flights by 50%. This translates to 100,000 fewer flights than they normally operate in December.
Airports most heavily affected by the cutbacks include those in New York City, Philadelphia, Chicago, and Los Angeles. These airports were chosen to help support the fact that those cities have some of the stricter policies regarding COVID travel restrictions.
Loyal AA customers shouldn’t worry, though, as the airline will be adding a few routes to the Caribbean and offering pre-flight COVID testing for passengers heading to Hawaii. If you’re looking to escape to warmer weather this holiday season, they have you covered!
United is also looking to testing to help passengers navigate COVID-related travel restrictions. They’ve just launched a brand-new pilot program -the first of its kind in the world- to offer free rapid tests for transatlantic customers. This program will run from November 16th through December 11th on select flights from Newark Liberty to London Heathrow.
United has been a pioneer in COVID related policies, which they are keeping through the holiday season These include mandatory compliance with in-air policies regarding mask-wearing, online pre-travel health assessments, and touchless check-in for travelers with baggage.
Have a Safe Flight
Of course, holiday travel safety during the pandemic doesn’t stop with the airline. As you choose how to travel this year, make sure to take into account how you’re getting to and from the airport, and how your local airport handles COVID-19 safety protocols. Happy holidays, and safe travels!