Even as the world cautiously reopens, flights resume and lockdown measures begin to ease, there is a long way to go before people feel safe enough to travel again.
This is exactly why every major airline has not just ramped up cleaning protocols, but also adopted new measures onboard and across the airport, to adapt to the ’new normal’ of air travel.
So, what does this ‘new normal’ look like exactly?
Most airlines advertise their use of High Efficiency Particulate Air or HEPA filters, which eliminate approximately 99.9% of viral contaminants in recirculated air. Some have swapped cabin crew uniforms for PPEs; while others have introduced contactless check-in and boarding procedures. Passengers can expect adapted inflight food services, prolonged airport waiting times as well as the mandatory use of face masks from take-off until landing.
Still anxious about air travel? Here’s a list of all health, hygiene and safety measures that most major airlines have introduced to make sure we can all safely take to the skies once again.
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Air Canada is requiring all passengers to wear face masks during check-in, boarding and throughout the duration of their flight.
The airline is requiring passengers to bring their own face masks to ensure that the country’s crucial face mask supplies will be reserved for frontline workers – now that’s class.
In May, Air France introduced temperature check throughout its routes. The checks are carried out before departure using contactless infrared thermometers. Any passenger with a body temperature on or above 38 degrees may be denied boarding, but have the option to change their flights to a later date at no extra charge.
France’s national carrier has also made the wearing of face masks compulsory for both passengers and cabin crew. It will separate passengers, when possible, to adhere to physical distancing guidelines onboard.
American Airlines has introduced flexible re-seating policies, minimised inflight food and beverage services, suspended checked pet services, and temporarily closed all its Admiral Club Lounges in response to COVID-19.
The airline has said that it will not assign 50% of the main cabin seats (particularly those near flight attendants and jump seats) and will only fill middle seats when necessary. Seat changes will be implemented by gate agents to maximise physical distancing onboard low-load flights.
British Airways has made the wearing of masks compulsory for all passengers onboard and across the customer journey. British Airways has adapted its check-in and boarding procedures to minimise contact between passengers and staff. It has also installed sanitising stations throughout the airport.
From 16 June, British Airways will be providing passengers with ‘protection packs’ that include antibacterial wipes and hand sanitiser.
It has also adapted inflight food services, which means that children’s meals and special meals are no longer available. Passengers are discouraged from using the overhead lockers and from walking around the cabin or queuing for the toilet.
Delta Air Lines
Delta Air Lines has introduced enhanced sanitation measures across its aircrafts, check-in counters and boarding gate areas. It has installed hand sanitiser dispensers across all high-traffic zones and Delta Sky Clubs; and included hand cleansers and anti-bacterial towelettes in every inflight amenity kit. All customer-facing employees have been equipped with PPE and hand sanitiser.
Cathay Pacific has made the wearing of face masks compulsory onboard. The Hong Kong-based airline is encouraging passengers to wear face masks in high-traffic areas in the airport such as security checkpoints and baggage zones.
EasyJet is resuming operations across 310 flights this week and has introduced several new safety measures to ensure the wellbeing of both passengers and crew. These include daily aircraft disinfection and the compulsory wearing of face masks onboard. It has introduced automated bag drop facilities and contactless check-in in select airports.
The budget airline has also teamed up with Irish Artist Will Sliney (known for his work in the Spiderman and Star Wars franchises) to provide comic-book inspired face masks for children flying on EasyJet this summer.
Etihad Airways has introduced multi-lingual ‘Wellness Ambassadors’ to help keep passengers informed on how the COVID-19 crisis will affect their journey.
The Wellness Ambassadors will update passengers the airline’s enhanced safety measures and guide them through safety precautions before, during and after travel. The programme also comes with a live chat feature.
To promote social distancing onboard, New York-based airline JetBlue will be blocking all middle seats until at least 6 July. The measure is part of the airline’s Safety from the Ground Up campaign, which includes touchless check-in and boarding, temperature monitoring and electrostatic aircraft disinfection.
KLM has made the wearing of surgical face masks compulsory onboard all its flights from 11 May to 31 August. Children under the age of ten are exempt from wearing face masks.
Passengers who are flying in from ‘high-risk’ areas also need to fill out a health declaration to ensure that they are fit to fly.
Qantas has rolled out its Fly Well programme, which illustrates the airline’s comprehensive health and hygiene practices. The pre-flight measures include contactless check-in, hand sanitation stations, and regular disinfection across multiple touchpoints in the airport.
Customers will be provided with face masks on each flight, although are not strictly required to wear them onboard. They will be provided with sanitising wipes and be asked to ‘limit movement around the cabin’ once seated.
Qatar Airways has ramped up cleaning protocols followingAir Transport Association (IATA) and World Health Organisation (WHO) approved sanitation guidelines.
The airline is sanitising all headsets and ear foams, washing all onboard linens and sanitising all major passenger touchpoints regularly. Cabin crew have been equipped with full PPE, which they will wear over their uniforms.
Qatar Airways has also deployed automated disinfection robots in Hamad International Airport which emit concentrated UV-C lights that eliminate viral contaminants and microorganisms. Similar sanitation robots have been introduced in Singapore Changi Airport and Pittsburgh International Airport.
Another major issue that deters passengers form returning to the skies is the uncertainty surrounding global travel restrictions and quarantine measures.
To help ease the minds anxious travellers, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) has launched a free interactive map detailing each county’s travel restrictions. It is updated more than 200 times a day.
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