(This story was updated on May 4, 2020)
Air travel will look a little different post COVID-19 as many airlines are requiring face masks for boarding.
JetBlue has announced that all customers will be required to wear face masks during travel starting May 4. The airline has modeled its policy on the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines that indicate all individuals should wear a face covering in public to help slow the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19).
“Wearing a face covering isn’t about protecting yourself it’s about protecting those around you,” said Joanna Geraghty, president and chief operating officer, JetBlue, in a press release statement. “This is the new flying etiquette. Onboard, cabin air is well circulated and cleaned through filters every few minutes but this is a shared space where we have to be considerate of others. We are also asking our customers to follow these CDC guidelines in the airport as well.”
The policy will require customers to wear a face covering throughout their journey, including during check-in, boarding, while in flight and deplaning. Customers will be reminded of this requirement before their flight via e-mail and at the airport by both terminal signage and announcements. The policy comes after the airline began requiring all crewmembers to wear face coverings while working.
Additionally, the airline has limited the number of seats available for sale on most flights since late March, allowing for the provision of additional space between individuals who are not traveling together. JetBlue also reviews seat assignments ahead of each flight to ensure as much personal space as possible for customers.
American Airlines has also made adjustments and will require all flight attendants to wear face masks during every mainline and regional flight as of May 1. The airline has also added a drawer in the galley on every mainline flight containing personal protective equipment, including masks for flight attendants and pilots, and other sanitizing items.
In early May, American Airlines will expand its comprehensive cleaning program that was added in March. The cleaning will use a disinfectant approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and focus on customer areas including tray tables, seatbelt buckles, armrests, window shades and seatback screens; as well as team member areas including enhanced galley cleaning, jumpseats and cockpit surfaces. The airline will also begin distributing sanitizing wipes or gels and face masks to customers. This offering will expand 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, American Airlines, in a press release statement. “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.”
United Airlines was the first major carrier to announce that its flight attendants would be required to wear masks on April 24. Beginning in early May, the airline will make face masks available to its customers as well, in line with the most recent CDC recommendation to wear a face covering in public when social distancing is difficult to maintain.
United Airlines has also introduced enhanced cabin sanitization procedures that include electrostatic spraying on all inbound long-haul international flights and mainline overnight aircraft. By June, the airline intends to have electrostatic spraying on every departure. United is also ensuring that its cleaning standards meet or exceed CDC guidelines. The cleaning procedure for flights includes a thorough wipe down using an effective, high-grade disinfectant and multi-purpose cleaning of lavatories, galleys, tray tables, window shades and armrests. The airline has also implemented steps to promote social distancing, such as limiting seat selection in cabins to create space between passengers as well as boarding fewer customers at a time.
Lufthansa Group is also requiring that all passengers wear a facial mouth/nose covering for use while on board their flights starting on May 4. Passengers will have to wear the protective covering throughout their entire journey including while at the airport before and after their flight, and whenever the required minimum distance can’t be guaranteed. All Lufthansa Group flight attendants will also be required to wear a face mask.
Under the new guidelines, passengers are asked to bring their own face mask—a reusable fabric mask is recommended, but all other types of coverings such as disposable masks or scarves are also acceptable alternates. Passengers will be informed of the new requirements prior to their flight via SMS os e-mail. The new requirement is in line with many European countries’ official guidelines and regulations, and wearing a mask while on board will preliminarily apply until Aug. 31, 2020.
In addition, Lufthansa, the middle seat that has been left vacant in Economy and Premium Economy Class will no longer be a necessity as the facial covering will provide protection, says the airline in a press statement. However, due to the decrease in flight demand, seats will be allocated as far apart as possible throughout the cabin. Lufthansa Group aircraft are also equipped with the highest quality air filters, which guarantee air quality similar to the in a clinical operating room; the aircraft airflow occurs from top to bottom, and no horizontal airflow from side to side or along the length of the aircraft. Therefore, the airflow on board is similar to the laminar airflow—air moving at the same speed and in the same direction with no or minimal crossover of air streams—of an operating room.
Frontier Airlines has also updated its guidelines to require passengers wear a face covering at the airline’s ticket counters, gate areas, and onboard starting May 8. Very young children, for whom a face covering is inadvisable, will be exempt from the policy. Flight crews have been required to wear face masks since April 13.
“We want our passengers to feel comfortable when flying with us by protecting themselves and their fellow travelers as we all navigate the Covid-19 pandemic,” said Barry Biffle, CEO of Frontier Airlines in a press statement. “This new measure is aligned with CDC recommendations and those of many municipalities within the U.S. that include wearing a face covering when out in public.”
In addition to the requirement for face masks, Frontier Airlines implemented a program earlier this month that requires passengers to accept a health acknowledgment prior to completing check-in via the company’s website or mobile app.
Passengers are required to certify that:
- Neither they nor anyone in their household has exhibited Covid-19 related symptoms in the last 14 days
- They will check their temperature before heading to the airport and not travel if they have a fever
- They will wash their hands/sanitize before boarding the flight
- Information on the airline’s face covering policy will be added to the health acknowledgment
Frontier is also using a fogging disinfectant to its sanitation protocols. The fogging includes virtually every surface in the passenger cabin. Planes will be wiped down every night with additional disinfectant as well. During the flight, main cabin air uses a filtration system that features HEPA filters capable of capturing respiratory virus particles at more than 99.7 percent efficiency, similar to those used in hospital environments. In order to support social distancing during flights, Frontier is blocking every other row on its aircraft departing on flights through the first week of May and is allowing customers to change seats once on board within their respective zones.
The latest airline to update its guidelines is Spirit Airlines, who announced that all guests will be required to wear appropriate masks or face coverings effective May 11. Spirit will also require all guest-facing team members to wear face coverings.
Guests will be expected to bring their own face coverings and will be required to wear them both at the airport and throughout the flight. Children who are not able to maintain a face covering are exempt from this requirement. The policy is temporary, and updates will be issued as the situation evolves.
Other procedures Spirit has put in place to protect against COVID-19 include state-of-the-art HEPA filters and air filtration systems; fogging disinfectant services using a high-grade EPA-registered airborne disinfectant that’s effective against coronavirus; leaving middle seats open whenever possible; removing seat-back menus to reduce common touchpoints; changing snack and beverage service to be by request only; and implementing new technology-driven solutions such as automated self-bag drop and self bag-tagging for contactless check-in.
For the scoop on what Delta Air Lines is doing to keep its planes up to code, check out “Delta Air Lines Transforms Cleanliness Protocol.”