Airline Policy Changes Related to COVID-19 [Updated: September 2020]

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The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has reshaped the global economy along with the day-to-day lives of almost everyone on earth.

As dramatic as that sounds, countries are reopening their borders and passengers are boarding planes again. However, don’t expect things to be the same on board as they were in pre-COVID-19 times.

With no firm safety guidance across various governments, airlines are creating and testing out new policies on the fly, which is creating uncertainty among passengers.

Some airlines are blocking seats to promote social distancing to entice flyers and their wallets, while others are filling planes to capacity to try to make up for lost revenue.

While these changes can be confusing for consumers, we have created a one-stop-shop with everything you need to know about your next flight and what the airlines are doing to keep you safe. We will detail what the world’s top airlines are doing when it comes to mask requirements, blocked seats, service cuts, and more.

Airline Responses to COVID-19 (Overview)

Airline Response Chart

AirlineCOVID-19 Test RequiredHealth QuestionnaireTemperature CheckMasks RequiredSeats BlockedHygiene Kit
Air CanadaNoYesYesYesNoYes
Air FranceYesYesYesYesNoNo
Alaska AirlinesNoYesNoYesYesNo
Allegiant AirNoYesNoYesNoYes
American AirlinesNoYesNoYesNoNo
British AirwaysNoYesNoYesNoNo
Cathay PacificYesYesYesYesNoNo
Delta Air LinesNoYesNoYesYesNo
EmiratesYesYesYesYesNoYes
EtihadYesYesYesYesNoYes
Frontier AirlinesNoYesYesYesNoNo
Hawaiian AirlinesNoYesYesYesYesNo
JetBlueNoYesNoYesYesNo
KLMNoYesNoYesNoNo
LATAMNoYesNoYesNoNo
LufthansaYesYesNoYesNoNo
QantasNoYesNoNoNoYes
Qatar AirwaysYesYesYesYesYesYes
Singapore AirlinesNoYesYesYesNoYes
Southwest AirlinesNoYesNoYesYesNo
Spirit AirlinesNoYesNoYesNoNo
TAP Air PortugalYesYesNoYesNoNo
Turkish AirlinesNoYesYesYesNoNo
United AirlinesNoYesNoYesNoYes
Virgin AtlanticNoYesYesYesYesYes
WestJetNoYesYesYesNoNo

Individual Airline Responses (COVID-19 Changes)

Air Canada

Video Credit: Air Canada

Air Canada has rolled out a complete suite of health and safety protocols that it is calling Air Canada CleanCare+. Starting at bag drop passengers can expect a touch-free experience that will include temperature screenings and virtual queueing.

Safety Precautions

Face coverings are required for all passengers and crew, however Air Canada will not be blocking seats to promote social distancing. Instead, economy passengers will receive an email if their flight is reaching capacity and will have the option to rebook on a less-full flight.

Before boarding, the plane will be cleaned using an electrostatic disinfectant sprayer, as well as sanitation of all high-touch areas; antiseptic wipes will always be available in the lavatories.

All passengers will receive Customer Care Kits that include a mask, gloves, bottled water, hand sanitizer, disinfecting wipes, a headset, and a snack.

Service Changes

On flights where meals are offered, a prepackaged meal will be served with an antiseptic wipe included in the meal box.

Bar service will be combined with meal service to minimize contact between the cabin crew and passengers.

Lounges

On the ground, lounges will be regularly cleaned in sections using an electrostatic disinfectant sprayer and guests can enjoy prepackaged meals or order via their smartphone.

Tables, chairs, and bathrooms are sanitized after each use, however, showers are not available.

A record of all guests is kept for 30 days as a method of contact tracing in the case that a passenger has tested positive for the coronavirus.

Finally, the BMW Chauffeur Service for Air Canada Signature Class customers is temporarily suspended.

Visit the airline’s website for complete details about Air Canada’s COVID procedures.

Hot Tip: Does travel insurance cover COVID-19-related trip cancellations? Our guide explores what you need to know about how to protect your future trip plans.

Air France

Video Credit: Air France

Air France has one of the stricter requirements for passengers, which, in turn, should create a safer flying environment for both passengers and crew.

Safety Precautions

As of August 1, 2020, France requires a negative COVID-19 test result (PCR test) taken less than 72 hours before your flight for passengers coming from the U.S., Bahrain, U.A.E., and Panama.

A negative test is also recommended for travelers from many other countries including Algeria, Brazil, India, Israel, Kuwait, Madagascar, Oman, Peru, Qatar, Serbia, South Africa, and Turkey, as they may be subject to a test upon arrival that could delay entry.

Passengers who do not provide a negative test could be subject to a 14-day quarantine.

All passengers will be required to pass a temperature check before boarding and wear a surgical mask (type FFP1, FFP2 or FFP3) throughout the flight.

Before boarding the aircraft will pass through the Air France Protect thorough cleaning procedures, which include a disinfectant sprayer, cleaning of high touch areas, and, like many airlines, the use of High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters. These filters recirculate the cabin air every 2 to 3 minutes and eliminate more than 99.97% of bacteria and viruses.

Although Air France is not currently blocking seats, the low load factor is allowing for some social distancing on board.

Service Changes

Passengers will now board from the back of the plane to avoid unnecessary exposure with other flyers. Once on board, there will be no more duty-free sales or distribution of magazines.

For flights under 2.5 hours, the food and beverage service has been suspended. Longer flights will be catered with prepackaged meals.

Lounges

On the ground, lounges are reopening with limited hours and services. As on the plane, masks are required and guests are asked to social distance when possible.

Currently, at Paris-Charles de Gaulle (CDG), the 2 medium-haul lounges in terminal 2F are open from 5:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Outside of France, the following airport lounges are open:

  • Cayenne-Félix Eboué (CAY)
  • Chicago O’Hare International (ORD)
  • Martinique Aimé Césaire International (FDF)
  • John F. Kennedy International-New York (JFK)
  • Pointe-à-Pitre International (PTP)
  • Roland Garros (RUN)

Air France offers complete details on lounges and safety procedures, including an informative video on HEPA filters.

Alaska Airlines

Video Credit: Alaska Airlines

Alaska Airlines has been one of the leaders when it comes to promoting onboard safety practices during COVID-19. Starting with a flexible cancellation policy to instructions on how to make your own face mask, Alaska has been a fan favorite.

Safety Precautions

As of August 7, 2020, all guests (Alaska refers to all passengers as guests) over the age of 2 will be required to wear a face mask with no exceptions being made for health waivers. If a guest forgets their mask, a mask will be provided to them.

In between flights, planes are cleaned with practices exceeding CDC cleaning guidelines using techniques developed and validated with the University of Washington Medical Directors, specializing in Infectious Diseases.

The Next Level Care commitment by the airline requires gusts to answer a questionnaire about their health and exposure before boarding. The agreement simply confirms that guests have not exhibited COVID-19 symptoms in the past 72 hours and have not been in close proximity to someone who has tested positive for the coronavirus.

Alaska Airlines is limiting the capacity on flights and blocking middle seats to allow for social distancing. A new boarding process also has guests boarding from the back of the plane first.

Service Changes

When it comes to amenities, Alaska has removed onboard tablets and seatback publications. All entertainment will be streamed directly to guests’ devices.

Onboard food and beverage service has also been reduced to limit interaction. The airline encourages guests to bring their own food.

Lounges

The Next Level Care commitment extends to the lounge experience as well. As of August 1, 2020, there are a total of 5 lounges open for passengers to use with updated cleaning and safety measures in place.

Capacity will be limited to 50% at most locations with guests being required to wear face masks when they are not eating or drinking.

All physical newspapers have been removed and replaced with a digital version that can be accessed via a personal smartphone or tablet.

Food and beverage have been reduced to prepackaged items unless otherwise authorized via local requirements.

Read all of Alaska Airlines’ safety precautions on its website.

Allegiant

Video Credit: Allegiant

You might not have expected it, but Allegiant has some of the best cleaning practices of the airlines. However, the airline is not limiting loads, so there is minimal social distancing once on board. If space allows, the flight crew may reassign seats to provide more space for passengers.

Safety Precautions

Like all major airlines, face coverings are mandatory for anyone over the age of 2. Passengers with a medical condition prohibiting them from wearing a mask must provide documentation from a medical physician to the gate agent an hour before departure.

Passengers are provided with a health and safety kit that includes a single-use face mask and 2 sanitizing wipes.

On board, in addition to the standard cleaning of high-touch surfaces, Allegiant uses an advanced antimicrobial protectant that creates a barrier on all surfaces that kills any germ or bacteria on contact for up to 14 days.

When it comes to air purification, the airline uses VOC (volatile organic compound) filters that remove additional organic compounds that HEPA filters do not.

Service Changes

All inflight food and beverage offerings are prepackaged and factory-sealed for safety and the menu is only available via the Allegiant smartphone app.

To reduce extra contact points, all magazines and inserts have been removed from the seatbacks.

Learn more about safety procedures on Allegiant flights.

American Airlines

Video Credit: American Airlines

If you were hoping to get an open middle seat on your next flight, it probably won’t be on American Airlines. American is not scanning temperatures nor blocking seats on its flights, but the airline did partner with Purell, so you will have access to good hand sanitizer.

If you are concerned about social distancing on board and want to cancel your flight, you can check the latest American Airlines policies.

Safety Precautions

If you are flying on American Airlines and are over the age of 2, you will be required to wear a face mask when you are not eating or drinking. To help keep things clean, sanitizing wipes and gels will be available on most international flights and some domestic flights over 900 miles.

On board, high-touch surfaces will be disinfected in between flights and all aircraft will receive an electrostatic spray once per week, which protects against bacteria, mold, and viruses. American announced on August 24, 2020, that in the coming months its planes will be treated with SurfaceWise2, an EPA-approved antiviral solution that kills 99.9% of viruses, including coronaviruses, on surfaces.

American Airlines also uses HEPA filters on all mainline aircraft and most regional jets that refresh the cabin air every 2 to 4 minutes.

Service Changes

Inflight food and beverage service in the main cabin will be limited. On some longer flights, prepackaged snack bags will be available on board, but passengers are encouraged to bring their own snacks.

Lounges

On the ground, lounges are reopening with enhanced safety precautions. Meals will be prepackaged, but there will still be a full bar for passengers to enjoy. Any additional orders can be made on your smartphone.

In addition to social distancing floor stickers, plexiglass shields, face mask requirements, and extra Purell, American Airlines is installing touchless, foot-operated devices on bathroom doors to reduce touch points.

See the complete details on American Airlines safety protocols.

Hot Tip: Is your airline, hotel, or rental car elite status impacted by COVID-19? Our guides explore the extensions, changes, and updates for all of the major programs.

British Airways

Video Credit: British Airways

British Airways is taking to the skies again with plenty of new safety precautions to keep flyers at ease.

From touchless check-in to updated lounge offerings and contact tracing, here is what BA is doing to keep you safe.

Safety Precautions

BA is requiring all passengers to wear masks on board with no mention of exceptions due to age or medical issues. The airline also recommends changing your mask every 4 hours, so bring enough for the duration of your flight.

Before boarding, key surfaces are disinfected after every flight and the planes are cleaned from “nose to tail” every day. While boarding, flyers will receive a personal protection pack containing an antibacterial wipe and hand sanitizer gel for use during their flight.

Passengers can expect a clean air environment as British Airways uses HEPA filters that replace the cabin air every 2 to 3 minutes, removing microscopic bacteria and virus clusters with over 99.9% efficiency, equivalent to hospital operating room standards.

Service Changes

During the flight, onboard catering has been limited to reduce interaction between the crew and passengers. This policy is still evolving, so it is recommended to bring your own snacks if you plan on eating during your flight.

Lounges

On the ground, Galleries South Club, Galleries North Club, and Galleries First lounges at Heathrow, Terminal 5 (LHR) are now open and can be accessed with touchless entry.

All food and beverage offerings can be ordered via a new online site Your Menu where guests can make their request and the order will be delivered directly to them.

Read about British Airways COVID-19 safeguards.

Cathay Pacific

Video Credit: Cathay Pacific

Cathay Pacific has introduced enhanced measures across every stage of the journey under the name of Cathay Care.

From mobile check-in to sterilized cabins, passengers can rest easy knowing that their plane will be clean and safe.

Safety Precautions

Before boarding, passengers are required to complete a health questionnaire, pass a temperature screening, and, of course, wear a mask.

All passengers arriving at Hong Kong International Airport (HKG) will need to undergo COVID-19 testing and be negative to avoid a 14-day quarantine.

In between every flight, planes are sanitized and high-touch areas are wiped down. A HEPA filter system ensures that the cabin atmosphere is free of 99.999% of contaminants.

Once on board, the airline will be “blocking off seats wherever possible,”1 however there is no official blocking seat policy.

Service Changes

Passengers will notice that the crew will be wearing masks, gloves, and eye goggles during the flight and that the pre-meal bar and pre-poured drinks are temporarily suspended.

There is currently a modified meal service designed to reduce contact with the crew, however, according to the video above, it still looks quite nice.

Lounges

In the terminal lounges, guests are required to have their temperatures checked and wear masks when they are not eating or drinking.

Meal and drink service is also reduced to minimize contact between staff and travelers.

Currently, some lounges are closed at Hong Kong International Airport.

Visit the website for more information about Cathay Care.

Delta

Video Credit: Delta

A global pandemic wouldn’t be complete without some branding opportunities, so Delta has partnered with Lysol to “set the standard for a cleaner and hygienic travel experience.”2

Delta has also rolled out Delta CareStandard that puts measures in place to help keep passengers safe and give them more peace of mind, including the new antimicrobial bins at select TSA security checkpoints in the U.S.

Safety Precautions

If you are flying Delta, you will be happy to know that the company will be blocking seats through at least January 6, 2021. 

Passengers who book a seat will see the seat next to them blocked automatically after the reservation is complete. Parties of 3 or more will still have the option to sit together if they would like.

On top of that, there will be capacity limits based on cabin:

On select routes that are reaching capacity, the airline may upgrade the aircraft to accommodate demand.

To finalize this excellent social distancing practice, boarding will begin from the back of the plane —although Delta One, first class, and Diamond Medallion customers can board whenever they would like.

Moving on to face masks, face coverings are required for all guests over the age of 2. If a passenger requires an exception to this rule, they must arrive at the airport early to complete a Clearance-to-Fly process before departure.

Note:Per Delta, “Any false claims of a disability or health condition to obtain an exemption from wearing a mask or face covering may result in the suspension of travel privileges on any Delta flight for the duration of the mask/face covering requirement.”

Service Changes

As of June 3, 2020, flight crews are no longer permitted to proactively assist passengers (with certain exceptions) while storing carry-on bags into overhead bins to help reduce touch points.

Inflight meal and snack service has also been reduced. Main Cabin passengers will no longer receive alcohol, plastic cups, or ice during their flight while first class or Delta One passengers will be served a prepackaged Flight Fuel box.

All passengers on flights longer than 350 miles will receive a snack and individual 8.5-ounce bottled water. Meal preselect and special meal service is temporarily suspended.

Lounges

On the ground, guests using the Delta Sky Club will be required to wear face masks when they are not eating or drinking.

Although many lounges are still open, Delta is temporarily consolidating Club operations, discontinuing shower service, and scaling back food and beverage offerings at many airports.

Follow this link for an up-to-date list of open Delta Sky Clubs.

Hot Tip: Our guide to Delta changes due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) includes cancellation policies, status changes, and more. 

Emirates

Video Credit: Emirates

Like many things in Dubai, Emirates‘ safety procedures at the airport are quite impressive. From the chauffeur ride to the airport to check-in and the plane, the procedures are almost ideal — except for no seat blocking, but loads are low at the moment.

To incentive passengers to chose Emirates for their next trip, through October 31, 2020, all Emirates passengers will receive complimentary COVID-19 travel insurance with their ticket — no registration necessary. This insurance will cover medical expenses, quarantine costs, and more for 31 days after your flight, even if you have traveled on to a different country.

Note:All passengers traveling to Dubai must have a negative COVID-19 PCR test certificate to be accepted on the flight. The certificate must be for a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) swab test. Passengers who are traveling from Dubai to the U.K. or Europe will also be required to take a COVID-19 PCR test no more than 96 hours before departure and present the test result certificate at check-in.

Safety Precautions

Passengers who have booked an Emirates chauffeur to get to the airport will be required to wear a mask and sit in the back seats; parties may need to be limited to give the driver appropriate distance. Each car is completely cleaned and disinfected at the beginning of the driver’s shift and the interior is sanitized after every trip, including handles, seatbelts, buttons, and blinds.

Upon arrival at the airport, masks are required and gloves are recommended, although not mandatory. Passengers will then pass through a fever detection scanner (similar to the metal detectors at airport security) and then receive a complimentary travel hygiene kit containing gloves, a face mask, antibacterial wipes, and a hand sanitizer.

On board, all planes are equipped with HEPA filters to ensure the air quality is as safe as possible, and enhanced cleaning will take place before, during, and after each flight.

Service Changes

The flight crew will now be wearing full personal protective equipment (PPE) including gowns, face masks, and face shields. On flights longer than 1.5 hours, there will be an extra flight attendant dedicated to keeping the lavatories clean.

Food and beverage services have been limited to hygienically-packaged dining options.

Lounges

Guests visiting the lounges at Dubai International Airport (DXB) will be required to wear a mask when they are not eating or drinking. There are currently no other Emirates lounges open around the world.

Food and beverage service has been limited to prepackaged items that can be ordered by scanning a QR code and bringing up a virtual menu.

At the moment, Timeless Spa, Costa, Moët & Chandon Champagne bar, shoeshine service, the children’s area, business center, and Le Clos wine shop are all closed at DXB until further notice.

Full details and upcoming changes to Emirates’ service are updated on its website.

Etihad

Video Credit: Etihad Airways

Etihad is implementing some of the industry’s most innovative and restrictive requirements when it comes to flying with Etihad Wellness. One of those innovations is a complimentary MicrobeBARRIER snood/neck gaiter for premium passengers.

In addition to onboard precautions, Etihad is now offering complimentary COVID-19 insurance for all passengers now through December 31, 2020. No registration necessary and guests with existing booking don’t need to do anything. Insurance will cover up to €150,000 (~$176,472) in medical costs and €100 (~$117.65) per day in quarantine costs.

All passengers will be required to provide a negative COVID-19 PCR test taken within 96 hours of their flight in order to board.

Safety Precautions

In addition to a negative COVID-19 test, guests arriving by chauffeur will be required to wear masks and the driver will sit behind a protective screen.

Once at the airport, passengers will have their temperatures checked and continue to be required to wear a mask through the end of their journey.

On board, passengers will notice that cabins have been refreshed with new seat covers and carpets and will receive deep cleanings in between flights. As always, aircraft are equipped with HEPA air filters which capture 99% of airborne microbes.

Passengers will receive Wellness Kits upon boarding that include a face mask, gloves, and hand gel, and are asked to wash their hands at regular intervals.

Service Changes

For the protection of staff and passengers, the flight crew will wear face masks and personal protective equipment (PPE) at all times.

Meal service has been “refreshed” as all of the food now goes through rigorous testing and is served in line with “strict COVID-19 guidelines.”3

If you are traveling with Etihad soon, you can download a travel guide.

Lounges

On the ground, the Abu Dhabi (AUH) lounge is open and has new safety measures that ensure social distancing. Guests are required to wear a face mask when they are not eating or drinking, and staff will be wearing personal protective equipment at all times.

See everything Etihad is doing to keep passengers safe while flying.

Frontier

Video Credit: Frontier Airlines

Frontier has been “working around the clock”4 to improve the customer experience and create a safer flying environment.

From temperature checks at check-in to overnight aircraft cleanings, your next flight on Frontier will, at the very least, be clean.

Safety Precautions

Before each flight, aircraft will receive extra cleaning with a focus on passenger seating, cabin walls, overhead bins, galleys, and lavatories. Each night, crews are spending between 4 to 6 hours disinfecting the entire plane. And every month the airline performs enhanced deep cleaning of the entire aircraft using an antimicrobial agent that creates a protective shield that can fight against viruses for 30 days.

From the moment passengers arrive at check-in, face coverings are required; the only exception is for children under the age of 2.

Note:Face masks with vents or valves, open-chin triangle bandanas, coverings made of mesh material, and face shields are not acceptable as face-coverings on Frontier.

Service Changes

Passengers making their way through the airport will notice social distancing stickers on the floor and plenty of plexiglass barriers; all ground and air crew are also required to wear face masks.

Currently Frontier is only offering limited beverage service on board, for a fee. It is recommended to bring a snack if you want to eat during your flight.

See how Frontier is committed to your health and safety.

Hawaiian Airlines

Video Credit: Hawaiian Airlines

Hawaiian Airlines is taking COVID-19 very seriously, especially because most passengers are required to quarantine upon arrival in Hawaii.

Airport employees are now trained to identify and assist people showing symptoms of illness — such as fever, nausea, and respiratory issues — in an effort to help stop the spread of the coronavirus.

Safety Precautions

Passengers will be happy to know that Hawaiian Airlines continues to block seats and that both guests and employees are required to wear face masks throughout the journey.

In addition to plenty of hand sanitizer being available, the boarding and deplaning process has been updated to promote social distancing. Main Cabin will board from the back of the plane first by rows; when deplaning, rows will be called starting with the front of the plane.

Cleaning and disinfecting of the aircraft occur after each flight and an electrostatic treatment is completed before each departure from Hawaii on the transpacific aircraft and each night on the Neighbor Island aircraft.

Transpacific flights are equipped with HEPA filters and island-hopping flights using the Boeing 717 cabins are not recirculated but instead continuously replaced with fresh, outside air controlled for temperature.

Service Changes

Flight crew are now using face masks and gloves and will provide passengers with sanitizing wipes upon boarding. Shared newspapers are no longer available, however the inflight Hana Hou! Magazine will be available to passengers before boarding.

Inflight, complimentary beverage service has been reduced and the sale of alcoholic beverages has been temporarily suspended in the Main Cabin. Also, the Pau Hana snack cart has been temporarily suspended.

Flights from North America currently do not have pillows and blankets available.

Lounges

Currently, all Plumeria Lounges and all Premier Clubs are closed.

Hawaiian’s website offers a complete rundown on all changes regarding open seats, face masks, Neighbor Island routes, and more.

JetBlue

Video Credit: JetBlue

JetBlue has launched Safety from the Ground Up — a program designed to keep passengers and crew members safe and well.

Crew members must pass temperature screenings before coming to work and JetBlue is offering extended sick time to allow staff to quarantine if necessary.

Safety Precautions

To encourage social distancing, JetBlue will continue to block seats through at least October 15, 2020. The airline will block middle seats on larger aircraft and aisle seats on smaller aircraft. Passengers can also book extra seats to guarantee the most space around themselves.

All travelers over the age of 2 are required to wear a face mask. Masks with vents or exhalation valves are no longer permitted. Passengers can wear plastic face shields in addition to a face-covering but not in place of one.

During the check-in process, passengers will be required to complete a coronavirus health declaration that acknowledges that they have not recently tested positive, experienced symptoms (including a fever), or been in recent contact with anyone who has tested positive for COVID-19.

Currently, the normal boarding process has been suspended, passengers will now board from the back to the front of the plane.

JetBlue is also testing out a UV Cabin System made by Honeywell (originally dubbed “GermFalcon”) to disinfect an entire cabin in minutes.

Service Changes

To minimize physical interactions and maximize safety, JetBlue has implemented some new procedures which include inflight crew members wearing medical-grade gloves during service and masks throughout the flight.

Food, beverage, and goods for sale have been temporarily suspended — this includes alcohol, EatUp Boxes, EatUp Café, pillows, and blankets. Snack baskets have been replaced with a pre-sealed snack and bottled water and the Grab & Go snacks from the Pantry are no longer available.

Passengers flying the Mint product will receive their meal and dessert on 1 tray to limit crew member interaction.

JetBlue also encourages passengers to use their personal device as a remote control for the IFE to avoid using the seatback remote.

Lounges

Passengers looking to get some fresh air while waiting for their flight at JFK Terminal 5 can visit the T5 Rooftop & Wooftop Lounge, an outdoor space located across from Gate 28.

The area is currently open daily from 6 a.m. until 11 p.m.

Learn more about everything JetBlue is doing to keep passengers and crew safe.

KLM

Video Credit: KLM Royal Dutch Airlines

KLM Royal Dutch Airlines is not officially blocking seats, but the airline has implemented a suite of procedures to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and inspire confidence in travelers.

Safety Precautions

Passengers over the age of 10 will be required to wear a mask while on board a flight unless they are eating or drinking.

At airports, including Amsterdam Airport Schiphol (AMS), passengers aged 13 and up are required to wear a mask at check-in, during security checks, at the gate, and in areas where it’s not possible to stay socially distanced from other passengers.

All passengers traveling to, from, or via Schiphol are required by the Dutch government to bring a copy of this health declaration.

Service Changes

The boarding process has returned to normal, with business and SkyPriority passengers boarding first followed by boarding groups.

Every day, aircraft are thoroughly cleaned with approved disinfectants and cabin air is currently being cleaned with HEPA filters that capture 99.99% of viruses and bacteria, including coronaviruses.

Inflight meal services have been changed, but passengers can still expect a somewhat normal experience. Although special meals are not currently available, passengers will still receive food, soft drinks, wine, and beer with coffee and tea available upon request.

On European flights, passengers will receive a box containing a sandwich in economy class. In business class, they will receive a box created by Dutch designer Marcel Wanders with breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

On intercontinental flights, passengers will receive a bag containing snacks, fruit, and drinks. Additionally, a salad, a hot meal, and dessert will be served in economy class. In business class, passengers can expect a salad, a hot meal, a dessert and cheese and crackers with tableware created by Dutch designer Marcel Wanders.

Lounges

KLM has reopened some lounges, including the Schengen KLM Crown Lounge. Food and beverage options are currently limited and the Blue bar and restaurant remains closed.

It has created a resource of the frequently asked questions regarding KLM’s response to the coronavirus.

Hot Tip: If you have a flight, hotel stay, or cruise that has been affected by COVID-19, you may be wondering how to cancel or rebook your upcoming travel. Our guides specifically detail cancellation policies for the major airlines, hotel chains, cruise lines, and online travel agencies (OTAs).

LATAM

Video Credit: LATAM Airlines

LATAM currently has reduced flights to and from the U.S., however, the airline has implemented a brand new health and safety protocol based on government, International Air Transport Association (IATA), and the World Health Organization (WHO) recommendations.

Safety Precautions

As you might expect, face masks or coverings are mandatory for all passengers. Masks can be of the surgical style or handmade fabric masks as long as they completely cover your nose and mouth.

Before and after each flight, all touch points on the aircraft will be cleaned and disinfected. And once on board, passengers can breathe easy thanks to HEPA filters which refresh the cabin air every 3 minutes.

Boarding and deplaning procedures have been modified to help promote social distancing. Unfortunately, LATAM is not blocking seats because “Blocking the middle seat as a measure of social distancing is not recommended by IATA within its guidelines to ensure a safe flight.”5

Service Changes

Food and beverage service has been simplified to limit only 1 interaction between the crew and passengers.

For passengers flying domestically in Peru, this service is temporarily suspended for both economy and premium economy cabins.

Pillows and blankets will only be distributed upon request if allowed by local authorities.

Lounges

Currently, all of the LATAM VIP Lounges are closed.

See what steps LATAM is taking to keep passengers and crew safe.

Lufthansa

Video Credit: Lufthansa

Lufthansa has rolled out its #WeCare safety program so that “you can fly with no worries.”6

Passengers flying Lufthansa will have plenty of precautions to adhere to, but the most important is for those arriving in Germany as a negative COVID-19 test is required. Visitors can provide a negative test from abroad as long as it is less than 48 hours old.

As of August 1, 2020, arriving passengers can get a free COVID-19 test at test centers located inside select German airports.

Safety Precautions

Upon arrival at the airport, passengers will be required to complete a self-medical-check to confirm that they have not experienced any COVID-19 symptoms, been in contact with anyone who has recently tested positive, or has tested positive themselves.

As expected, face coverings are required at all times during the journey. However, if a passenger has a medical exception, they can arrive at the airport with an official medical certificate from the airline and a negative COVID-19 test no older than 48 hours old to avoid this requirement.

New regulations at German security checkpoints are now limiting passengers to 1 carry-on per person.

On board, aircraft receive thorough cleanings before and after each flight. Passengers will also receive disinfectant wipes upon boarding to sanitize their personal areas.

Service Changes

Lufthansa has worked with virologists to identify potential issues with service, and as a result, will not serve open meals in the cabin. Many meal items in premium economy and business class will remain the same but will be served with a cover; some additional changes will be based on the route.

Pillows have been removed from both economy and business class. Business class passengers will still receive a freshly washed blanket on night flights, and those on flights longer than 10.5 hours will also be able to request a mattress pad.

Lounges

Lufthansa is currently operating lounges, including First Class Lounges and Senator Lounges.

All open lounges will have reduced food and beverage offerings to help reduce touch points.

Learn more about what Lufthansa is doing to make passengers comfortable during the pandemic.

Qantas

Video Credit: Qantas

Qantas has canceled nearly all of its international flights through March 2021 due to the coronavirus (COVID-19), so if you are flying with them, it will likely be a domestic flight or one of the few flights available to New Zealand.

Safety Precautions

As part of the Fly Well initiative, Qantas is encouraging contactless check-in, self-service bag drop, and social distancing whenever possible.

Throughout the airports, hand sanitizers will be available and passengers will receive a Fly Well pack, containing a face mask and sanitizing wipes, before boarding.

On board, high contact areas such as seats, seatbelts, overhead bins, air vents, and toilets will receive a thorough disinfection process in addition to the HEPA-filtered cabin air.

Face masks are only strongly encouraged when flying in most parts of Australia. For flights to, from, or within the state of Victoria, masks are mandatory for passengers over the age of 12 unless they have a medical condition preventing them to do so.

Qantas does not block seats and in the safety video states that seats “act as a natural barrier and people are not seated face to face.”

Service Changes

Qantas has launched a simplified service on most routes. Passengers flying economy will receive a bottle of water and a snack. Some routes will offer preordered special meals and limited bar service.

Passengers in business class can once again enjoy main meals, preordered meals, tea and coffee, and bar service.

Unfortunately, the inflight entertainment has been suspended to help reduce touch points. The airline encourages passengers to bring their own entertainment and snacks on board to be more comfortable.

Lounges

Qantas has begun reopening lounges with new safety protocols in place.

Guests will be asked to provide their contact information to facilitate contact tracing if a passenger finds out they have tested positive for the coronavirus.

Additionally, there will be capacity limits, increased cleaning, and hosted food and beverage service, and the shower facilities will remain closed.

Read about the Fly Well program and everything else Qantas is doing to help keep flying safe,

Qatar Airways

Video Credit: Qatar Airways

Qatar Airways has raised the bar when it comes to coronavirus prevention on board its flights.

With some of the strictest requirements in the industry, passengers on board a Qatar flight can rest easy knowing that the airline is doing more than most airlines when it comes to limiting COVID-19 transmission, including blocking seats in economy class.

As of August 13, 2020, passengers coming from at least 13 countries will be required to provide a negative COVID-19 RT-PCR test in order to check in.

Safety Precautions

There are a couple of procedures that Qatar is taking that are different from most airlines.

First, self-check-in kiosks have been disabled to encourage passengers to use the app on their personal devices. Second, in addition to face masks being mandatory for all passengers, face shields are also required for economy class passengers when they are not eating or drinking. Face shields are only recommended, not required, for business class passengers.

At the airport, passengers will need to pass a temperature check and will likely see disinfecting robots and ground staff wearing smart screening helmets.

On board, planes are deep cleaned and disinfected after each flight, and bedding and linen are washed, dried, and pressed at high temperatures.

Service Changes

The crew will be wearing full personal protective equipment (PPE), including glasses, gloves, and a mask. Passengers will also be offered hygiene kits including a mask, gloves, and sanitizer.

Inflight meal service has been modified to reduce passenger and crew interaction, however, full meals are still available for both business and economy class.

On board, social areas have been temporarily closed.

Lounges

The Hamad International Airport (DOH) in Doha has reopened some lounges with seating and social areas rearranged. Guests will have access to assisted hot buffets, individually served portions for the cold buffets, and a digital menu for a la carte options.

Qatar Airways’ official safety measures fact sheet is available online.

Singapore Airlines

Video Credit: Singapore Airlines

Singapore Airlines has implemented some new procedures designed to safeguard both passengers and staff while continuing to provide the service you might expect from the airline.

Safety Precautions

If you are flying to Singapore, you will be required to complete an electronic health declaration before your arrival.

Passengers departing from Singapore will be required to wear masks at all times and pass a temperature screening at the airport. Online check-in and duty-free shopping are recommended to be completed online before arriving at the airport to reduce interaction.

On board, passengers will receive an SIA Care Kit containing a face mask, hand sanitizer, and disinfectant surface wipe.

Each aircraft will undergo thorough cleaning before boarding and the cabin air is constantly refreshed with HEPA filters.

Service Changes

The flight crew will be wearing face masks and either eyeglasses or shields throughout the flight. Gloves will be worn during meal service.

Meal and alcohol services have been modified based on the route. Flights within Southeast Asia or Mainland China will only offer a snack bag instead of a meal tray. All other flights have a simplified version that is evolving.

Lounges

Currently, only the SilverKris Lounge (business class) at Changi Airport Terminal 3 (SIN) is open with limited service. Instead of a buffet, a la carte meals will be served and all publications can be viewed on a personal device.

A printable guide on Singapore Airlines’ health and safety procedures is available.

Southwest Airlines

Video Credit: Southwest Airlines

Southwest has many loyal customers, and during the coronavirus pandemic, the company has built on that goodwill thanks to the multiple safety procedures, including blocking middle seats.

On top of that, Southwest has a very generous change and cancellation policy which you can read about, in-depth.

Safety Precautions

Passengers over the age of 2 flying Southwest will be required to wear a face mask during check-in, boarding, on the pane, deplaning, and when collecting bags — essentially any time they are near a fellow passenger or Southwest employee, without exception. Face shields may be worn in addition to face masks, but not in place of them.

Every month, planes are sanitized with an electrostatic disinfectant that forms an anti-microbial barrier which can last for 30 days. Each night, planes are deep cleaned for 6 to 7 hours from nose to tail.

As always, the cabin air is constantly refreshed and cleaned using HEPA filters.

Service Changes

For flights over 250 miles, snacks and water will be served. Straws can be requested.

For flights under 250 miles, the snack and beverage service has been suspended.

See complete details on everything that Southwest is doing to keep passengers safe.

Hot Tip: Traveling with kids during the coronavirus pandemic can be complicated. We offer some simple tips to keep you and your family healthy in the skies and on the road.

Spirit Airlines

Video Credit: Spirit Airlines

Spirit Airlines is not blocking seats, but the airline does have one of the strictest face mask policies out of all the major U.S. carriers.

If you are flying Spirit soon, here is what you will need to know:

Safety Precautions

As of August 5, 2020, all passengers over the age of 2 will be required to wear a face mask for the duration of their trip. Medical exceptions will no longer be permitted, and passengers who refuse to comply will lose future flight privileges.

Additionally, the list of prohibited face coverings now includes open-chin triangle bandanas, masks with valves or mesh material, and face shields with no mask underneath. Face shields may be worn in addition to a mask, but not as a replacement.

On board, Spirit uses 2 disinfecting fogging treatments to sanitize the plane. The first treatment applies a high-grade disinfectant that’s effective against coronaviruses. The second uses an antimicrobial product that forms an invisible barrier on all surfaces that kills bacteria and viruses on contact for up to 30 days.

During the flight, the cabin air is constantly refreshed and filtered with HEPA filters.

Service Changes

On board, the crew will be wearing masks and all times and will only serve snacks and beverages upon requests.

All seatback literature has been removed to limit unnecessary touch points.

More information can be found in the Spirit Airlines COVID-19 Information Center.

TAP Air Portugal

Video Credit: TAP Air Portugal

TAP Air Portugal has introduced the TAP Clean&Safe program which is designed to create a cleaner and safer flying environment for both passengers and crew.

With everything from wearing masks to providing negative COVID-19 test results, here is what you need to know before your next TAP flight.

Safety Precautions

Some passengers flying to Portugal will need to provide a negative COVID-19 (molecular RT-PCR) test before boarding their flight. Passengers arriving from the E.U., the Schengen Area (Liechtenstein, Norway, Iceland, and Switzerland), the U.K., or Canada do not need to provide a test result. Passengers from the U.S., Brazil, and all other countries will need to provide a negative test result.

All passengers over the age of 6 are required to wear a face mask on board all TAP flights. If you have a medical condition preventing you from wearing a mask, you must have your doctor complete this form and then request clearance from the airline. Without this form, boarding will not be allowed.

Onboard, all aircraft receive daily deep cleaning with biocidal products, in line with the Portuguese Directorate-General for Health (DGS) guidelines. TAP also uses a nebulization process that acts against encapsulated viruses and many common bacteria in just 30 seconds.

Cabin air is cleaned and filtered every 2 to 3 minutes with HEPA filters which can extract up to 99.999% of even the smallest viruses.

Service Changes

Flight crew are required to wear face masks throughout their journey and will have disinfection and cleaning equipment and products at their disposal.

Meal and beverage service has been limited or suspended depending on the route. Food will now be served in prepackaged and sealed containers.

Eligible flights will continue to have blankets and pillows available which have been cleaned, disinfected, and sealed before use.

Lounges

Currently, the TAP Premium Lounges are closed.

Detailed information is available regarding the TAP Clean&Safe program and everything TAP is doing to keep you safe on your next flight.

Turkish Airlines

Video Credit: Turkish Airlines

Turkish Airlines is the national carrier of Turkey and has worked with authorities on the development of its new safe safety procedures.

The airline has created a manual with guidelines on everything you should consider from the moment you leave your house until you leave the airport.

Safety Precautions

Upon arrival at the airport, face masks are mandatory for all passengers and crew. Passengers and crew will have their temperatures checked before boarding, and will only be allowed to board with 1 small, personal item. That personal item must be smaller than 15.7 x 11.8 x 5.9 inches (40 x 30 x 15 cm) and weigh less than 8.8 pounds (4 kg). If your item is larger than that, it will be checked at no extra charge.

The boarding process is currently starting with the last row to minimize interaction between passengers. Deplaning will consist of lines of 10 people with 2-minute waiting intervals.

Once on board, passengers can breathe easy knowing that the cabin air is constantly refreshed using HEPA filters.

After each flight, each aircraft is cleaned and all touch points are disinfected by a special team. Once per day, when the planes return to their hubs, they will be disinfected again with a 2-stage fogging process.

Service Changes

Inflight, the crew will continue to wear personal protective equipment (PPE) and pass out a hygiene kit to passengers which include a mask, antiseptic tissue, and hand sanitizer.

All food and beverage offerings will be served in prepackaged, single-use servings. On flights less than 2 hours, only bottled water will be served.

Pillows have been removed from all flights and blankets will only be provided on flights longer than 4 hours.

Lounges

Currently, Turkish Airlines is operating 2 lounges at Istanbul Airport (IST): the Turkish Airlines Lounge Miles&Smiles in the international terminal and the Turkish Airlines Lounge in the domestic terminal.

At the Ankara Esenboğa Airport (ESB), the Turkish Airlines Lounge in the domestic terminal is open.

All of the lounges are operating with limited service and increased hygiene procedures.

See complete details on everything regarding Turkish Airlines’ COVID-19 policies.

United Airlines

Video Credit: United

United wasn’t going to be left behind when it comes to partnering with a cleaning product, so in collaboration with Clorox, passengers now get to experience United CleanPlus.

Although passengers can’t expect any social distancing on board because United isn’t blocking seats, there are plenty of new initiatives implemented to keep flyers safe.

If a flight is approaching capacity, passengers will be given the option to rebook at no charge.

Safety Precautions

Ground crew and flight attendants are now required to pass a temperature check when arriving at work, however, the same is not required for passengers.

All passengers over the age of 2 are required to wear face coverings during check-in, boarding, inflight (when not eating or drinking), and deplaning. During the check-in process, passengers will need to confirm that they are not experiencing COVID-19 symptoms.

An updated boarding process will have passengers start boarding from the rear of the plane to limit extra passenger interaction.

Once on board, flyers will receive a disinfectant wipe and likely notice a very clean cabin as each aircraft is thoroughly cleaned and sanitized before and after every flight. Before boarding, every aircraft will receive an electrostatic spray which traps and kills bacteria and viruses.

Finally, passengers can take a deep breath knowing that the cabin air is filtered using state-of-the-art HEPA filters that eliminate 99.97% of airborne particles.

Service Changes

The flight crew is now wearing face masks throughout the flight and using a modified inflight service to limit contact and interaction with passengers.

On flights between 1 hour and 2 hours and 20 minutes, domestic premium cabin passengers will receive an “all-in-one” pack which includes a sanitizing wipe, a bottle of water, stroopwafel, and a package of pretzels. On flights longer than 2 hours and 2o minutes, all passengers will receive this pack.

On international flights, meal service will be provided in prepackaged contains all on 1 tray. Pillows and blankets will be provided upon request in compliance with local regulations.

Lounges

Currently, most United Club and United Polaris lounges are closed. Open locations are operating with limited service.

View United’s website for complete details on everything United CleanPlus.

Virgin Atlantic

Video Credit: Virgin Atlantic

Virgin Atlantic has restarted flights to many major cities with more coming in the next months.

To do so safely, the airline has implemented new health protocols based on aircraft cleaning, staff training, and new passenger requirements.

While there is no official blocking of middle seat policy, Virgin Atlantic is intentionally leaving some seats empty when possible.

In an attempt to increase travel confidence amongst passengers, and fill its planes, Virgin Atlantic is now offering free COVID-19 insurance for all passengers. There is no registration required and any passenger flying Virgin between August 24, 2020, and March 31, 2021, will automatically receive coverage of up to £500,000 (~$655,500) in emergency medical costs, repatriation, and quarantine related costs.

Safety Precautions

Masks are required for all crew and passengers over the age of 6 inside the airport and aircraft at all times, except when eating or drinking. Passengers with a medical exception will need to reach out to the Special Assistance team.

Passengers may also be subject to a temperature check at the airport to make sure that they are symptom-free and safe to fly.

On board, planes regularly have high touch point areas disinfected and the entire aircraft is fogged using an electrostatic sprayer before each flight. The cabin air is constantly being refreshed with HEPA filters clearing bacteria and viruses.

Service Changes

Upon boarding, passengers will receive a Health Pack which includes a medical-grade face mask, surface wipes, and hand gel.

Meal service has been modified to limit interaction as a means to protect both passengers and crew. Food will now be served in a prepackaged and hygienic package. Pre-Select and Dietary Meals services are currently unavailable.

Lounges

Currently, Virgin Atlantic Clubhouses, Heathrow Revivals, and the Heathrow Upper Class Wing lounges are all closed.

Read all of the details about what Virgin Atlantic is doing to keep flying safely.

WestJet

Video Credit: WestJet

WestJet has made some changes in response to the COVID-19 pandemic to put “safety above all.”7 At first, that meant many new safety procedures including blocking the middle seats. Unfortunately, as planes behind to fill up, WestJet has started selling these middle seats again.

If you are planning on flying with WestJet, here is what they are currently doing to keep passengers and crew safe.

Safety Precautions

Starting at the airport, face masks are required for anyone over the age of 2 and passengers will need to pass a temperature check before boarding.

If a passenger has a medical reason for not wearing a mask they must provide a medical note that is:

  • Issued by a medical professional
  • On professional letterhead
  • Dated
  • Clearly states the passenger’s name and the medical condition that prevents them from wearing a mask

Every aircraft is disinfected before and after each flight with different products and techniques depending on the surface. WestJet is also in the process of using an electrostatic fogger that disinfects and entire plane in 20 minutes. For more on the cleaning process, click here.

Service Changes

Flights under 60 minutes long currently do not have food and beverage service.

Passengers on flights over 60 minutes long will find a bottle of water and a snack at their seat upon boarding. A small menu of snacks for purchase will also be available on these flights.

Lounges

At the moment, the WestJet Chinook Lounge (YYC) is closed; more information is available on the reopening plans.

Visit the website to learn more about everything that WestJet is doing to keep passengers safe.

Final Thoughts

All said and done, airlines, for the most part, and doing whatever they can to make flying as safe and possible and inspire confidence to travel in passengers.

Yes, it is easy to criticize airlines for not blocking seats, but from what we are learning (and that is changing daily), getting infected with the coronavirus on an airplane is very unlikely — assuming everyone is following the proper safety procedures.

It would be even more unlikely with extra space around you, and our comparisons allow you to easily see what each airline is doing to keep you safe so that you can make an informed decision about where to spend your money.

If you are staying grounded until this whole thing settles down, that makes total sense. If you find yourself at the airport any time soon, we hope this information is useful to you.

Be safe.


All information and content provided by Upgraded Points is intended as general information and for educational purposes only, and should not be interpreted as medical advice or legal advice. For more information, see our Medical & Legal Disclaimers.


Frequently asked questions

Is it safe to fly?

Without a doubt, the safest option for everyone is to stay home. If you have the need to travel, airplanes are surprisingly low-risk when it comes to virus transmission. With enhanced cleaning, disinfection, and mandatory mask use, your next flight might be safer than going to a family cookout.

Does my airline require a face mask?

Yes. Every major airline in the U.S. (and abroad) currently requires almost every passenger to wear a mask while on board. There are exceptions for young children (age requirement may vary), and depending on the airline, there may be medical exceptions for adults.

How do I know if the middle seat is blocked on my flight?

If you want to know if your middle seat is blocked on your next flight, you can first check the chart in this article which will let you know which airlines are currently enforcing this policy. You can also check the seat map in your flight reservation to see if the seat next to you has been booked.

What are airlines doing to keep passengers safe?

Airlines around the world have implemented multiple health and safety procedures to help keep passengers and crew safe during the pandemic. The most common changes include mandatory mask usage, contactless check-in and boarding, limited onboard service, and enhanced cleaning and disinfecting of the aircraft.

Chris Hassan

About Chris Hassan

Chris is from Boston and is currently living in Rio de Janeiro with his wife, two kids, and their dog, Shelby. When Chris was in college, he spent a semester abroad studying hotel and business management in Switzerland. That is where he caught the travel bug and met his wife. Quite a successful trip!

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