Travelling by air nowadays can be perceived as unsafe due to potential exposure COVID-19. However, if you have to fly, we prepared a short summary of 5 airlines. We looked at 2 Canadian airlines – Air Canada and WestJet and 3 US – United, Delta and American to give you an update on safety measures put in place.
When we wrote our first blog on airline safety back in June, blocking the middle seat was being done. Now that it is September, the airlines are no longer doing this. WestJet even issues a special statement about it. So, what is being done to ensure passenger and crew safety?
Across the board all five airlines have these measures in place:
- Mandatory mask or face coverings
- Hospital-grade HEPA filters on aircraft (remove 99.99% of all airborne particles)
- Enhanced screening for symptoms
- Plexiglass shields in the lobby and check-in
- Contactless check-in
- Enhanced cleaning protocol at all stages of air travel – in the airport, at the check-in counter, boarding area, aircraft and luggage pick-up area
- Boarding is modified to allow fewer people at a time and with clearly marked social distance
Additional measures put in place by Transport Canada is temperature checks at all major airports in Canada. Air Canada and WestJet perform infrared temperature checks and those with elevated temperature will be denied boarding and will be given an opportunity to re-book the air travel in 14 days. If your temperature is elevated due to a non-COVID reason you must present a medical certificate stating those reasons.
If a customer refuses to wear a mask, the plane can not depart. There have been instances in both US and Canada where flights were cancelled, or airport security was involved in resolving a conflict. WestJet even puts these non-compliant customers on a year ban list with the airline. They also implemented the mandatory sharing of guest contact information. Such measure will help Public Health Agency of Canada and provincial health authorities track transmission chains should a passenger later test positive.
Air Canada introduced Virtual Queuing to minimize check-in wait times and contact at certain counters. Customers can scan their boarding pass to enter a virtual queue and are notified via smartphone to proceed to the counter for assistance.
United Airlines and Air Canada can notify their customers if their flight is getting close to full and provide them with an opportunity to re-book a less full flight with no charge.
To encourage Canadians to travel abroad, Air Canada is currently offering a complimentary Manulife COVID-19 emergency medical and quarantine insurance for all its new bookings made from September 17th, 2020 until October 31st, 2020. Travel must be complete by April 12, 2021. More information about the eligibility can be found here.
United Airlines added an option of VIP bag delivery. For a small fee, a traveller can avoid luggage pickup that potentially can have a lot of people and have their bags delivered within 100 miles of the airport. They are also in the process of rolling out antimicrobial technology, NovaRover, on all aircraft to add an additional layer of disinfectant on board.
American airlines are seeking Global Biorisk Advisory Council (BGAC) STAR accreditation to ensure they have proper procedures to respond to biological threats like COVID-19.
As you can see, airlines are continuing to put a lot of efforts in making air travel safe again. As information about COVID-19 evolves and we learn more, airlines will also respond.