Airlines respond to pandemic concerns

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Written by: Alexa Stone

The COVID-19 pandemic brought immediate and severe economic impact to the aviation industry. Second and third quarter air travel decreased by 353 million passengers in 2020. April brought a 95.3% drop in air travel. The good news is that travelers are coming back. In fact, September 2020 passenger numbers are within 67.7% of September 2019.[1]

The risk of contracting COVID-19 is the overwhelming concern of air travelers with these three scenarios as primary:[2]

  • Sitting beside an infected person during a flight (cited by 65%)
  • Sanitation of on-board toilet facilities (42%)
  • Viruses circulating in cabin air (37%)

Here is how seven major airlines are responding through changes in their preflight and inflight procedures.

Preflight policies and procedures[3]

Preflight policy and procedures

  • Flexible change and cancellation policies

    All seven airlines have addressed passenger concerns about flights that seem too full. Spirit Airlines is waiving change fees for those concerned passengers who have booked flights prior to October 31st.

    JetBlue Airways will waive cancelation fees as well for tickets purchased before March, 2021.

    If a regularly-scheduled flight is too full, United will attempt to contact passengers 24 hours before departure.

  • Cleaning and sanitizing

    In addition to CDC-recommended cleaning, all of these airlines sanitize with electrostatic sprays.

    JetBlue Airlines and Delta Airlines are also testing the use of antimicrobial light. JetBlue does UltraViolet (UV) surface disinfection between some flights. Delta is installing visible-spectrum LED lighting in its aircraft restrooms. That visible light, though not antiviral, continuously kills bacteria, fungi, mold, and yeast.[4]

  • Pre-flight screening

    Most airlines ask all passengers brief pre-flight screening questions. Delta Airlines requires a more extensive interview for passengers unable to wear a mask due to an underlying condition.

    JetBlue Airways and Southwest Airlines offer preflight Coronavirus testing on a few specified routes.

  • Boarding procedures for distancing

    Southwest Airlines boards passengers in groups of 10.

    Alaska Airlines, Delta Airlines, JetBlue Airways, and United Airlines board main cabin passengers in groups, back to front.

Inflight policies and equipment

Inflight policies and equipment

  • Seating with social distancing

    Alaska Airlines, Delta Airlines, JetBlue Airways, and Southwest Airlines are limiting seating capacity. Those limitations vary by airline and type of aircraft. Exceptions may be provided when three or more people are traveling together.

  • Face coverings provided on request

    All seven of these airlines require protective masks to be worn by all crew and passengers.

  • Hand sanitizer provided

    Alaska Airlines, Delta Airlines, Southwest Airlines, and United Airlines provide hand sanitizing wipes. Delta also has sanitizer stations near boarding doors and lavatories.

    American Airlines provides hand sanitizer on all international flights, as well as domestic flights over 900 miles.

    JetBlue Airways provides hand sanitizer before boarding.

  • High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters

    While inflight, cabin air on all of these airlines circulates through HEPA filters. Those filters remove no less than 99.94% of particulates (including Coronavirus).

    JetBlue Airways is testing a UV disinfection system for cabin air.

Cabin air HEPA filters and mask-wearing requirements are the most significant ways airlines have reduced disease risk. Because policies, procedures, and equipment change so frequently, travelers should check individual airline websites before booking a flight.

We would be grateful to learn about any differences you have seen during your travels. Please let us know of any updated or corrected information. We expect to update this blog post based on the information readers share with us. Thank you!

[1] TSA.gov — Transportation Safety Administration (TSA)
[2] IATA.org — International Air Travel Association (IATA)
[3] Forbes.com
[4] Reuters.com

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The Baseline Property Condition Assessments described in ASTM E2018-15 do not specify consideration of infectious disease transmission concerns. In a pandemic and post-pandemic environment, that inspection and documentation is essential.

Buildings open to the public must comply with local regulations. For best results and greatest public acceptance, any planning for building repairs and maintenance should not overlook current CDC and NIH guidelines.

Optionally, ecoPreserve's can assist with a comprehensive GBAC STAR™ Accreditation which extends beyond the building to include the goals, actions, equipment, and supplies needed to implement best practices for outbreak prevention, response, and recovery.

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Here's how to request further information. Thank you for reaching out!

AWARE of CDC and NIH guidelines

The Baseline Property Condition Assessments described in ASTM E2018-15 do not specify consideration of infectious disease transmission concerns. In a pandemic and post-pandemic environment, that inspection and documentation is essential.

Buildings open to the public must comply with local regulations. For best results and greatest public acceptance, any planning for building repairs and maintenance should not overlook current CDC and NIH guidelines.

Optionally, ecoPreserve's can assist with a comprehensive GBAC STAR™ Accreditation which extends beyond the building to include the goals, actions, equipment, and supplies needed to implement best practices for outbreak prevention, response, and recovery.

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