Air travel will look a little different post COVID-19 as many airlines start to require masks for boarding.
Following Jet Blue’s announcement as the first of the major airlines to require masks for passengers and crew, the Association of Flight Attendants this week put out a statement urging that this become a mandate across all carriers.
“Most U.S. airlines are now requiring flight attendants to wear a mask while working, but we need passengers to wear masks in order to best protect everyone onboard, including crew. All airlines should follow JetBlue’s lead, including its efforts to fully communicate the change so that flight attendants are not put in the position of being enforcers without information and backing from the airline,” the statement said.
Meanwhile, here’s the latest on mask policies and other safety measures being taken by four major carriers:
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.
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 crew members 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 requirement for passengers comes soon after, on May 11.
In early May, American 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 seat back screens; as well as team member areas including enhanced galley cleaning, jump seats 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.
United Airlines was the first major carrier to announce that it would require masks for flight attendants. 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 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. The airline 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.
This week, Delta Air Lines began offering masks to passengers and to require masks for many employees. All staff come within six feet of customers or other employees must wear masks. It will offer them for free at ticket counters, gates and on flights.
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.”
Other airlines soon requiring masks include Frontier and Hawaiian and Frontier (May 8) and Southwest and Spirit (May 11).
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