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Airline Policy Changes Related to COVID-19 [Updated: April 2024]

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Chris Hassan
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Chris Hassan

Social Media & Brand Manager

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Chris holds a B.S. in Hospitality and Tourism Management and managed social media for all Marriott properties in South America, making him a perfect fit for UP and its social media channels. He has a ...
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Keri Stooksbury

Editor-in-Chief

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With years of experience in corporate marketing and as the executive director of the American Chamber of Commerce in Qatar, Keri is now editor-in-chief at UP, overseeing daily content operations and r...

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Update: On April 18, 2022, a federal judge struck down the federal mask mandate. Airlines and local transit authorities will now create and enforce their own mask policies.

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

Now that many countries have reopened and restrictions are being lifted, getting back to traveling is a priority for many. However, don’t expect things to be the same onboard planes as they were in pre-pandemic times.

With constantly shifting guidance across various governments, airlines are doing their best to keep up while ensuring passengers are safe and comfortable.

Initially, some airlines blocked seats to promote social distancing to entice flyers and their wallets, while others filled planes to capacity to try to make up for lost revenue. Now, you can expect a full flight and a busy airport on your next trip.

While these changes can be confusing for travelers, we have 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’ve detailed what the world’s top airlines are doing when it comes to mask requirements, blocked seats, service cuts, and more.

Update: As of December 6, 2021, the CDC requires all air passengers arriving in the U.S. from a foreign country to provide to the airline a negative COVID-19 test or proof of having recovered from COVID-19 within 90 days before boarding a flight to the U.S. Regardless of vaccination status, you must provide a negative test taken within 1 day of departure. This ruling applies to all travelers including U.S. citizens/residents, though non-U.S. citizens and non-U.S. immigrants must be fully vaccinated (unless exception criteria are met, such as children under 18 years old). This means if you’re traveling internationally, you must figure out how to get tested abroad prior to flying back to the U.S.

Airline Responses to COVID-19 (Overview)

Airline Response Chart

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*Passengers arriving in the U.S. must provide a negative COVID-19 test taken within 1 day of departure or proof of recovery after contracting the virus. Complete details can be found on the CDC website.

Individual Airline Responses (COVID-19 Changes)

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 includes virtual queueing and more.

All passengers aged 12 years plus 4 months or older must be fully vaccinated to board a flight departing from airports in Canada. 

Safety Precautions

Face coverings are required for all adult passengers and crew. For flights to and from the U.S., children 2 and older must wear a mask. Children between 2 and 6 flying inside Canada are encouraged, but not required to wear masks.

Before boarding, planes are cleaned using an electrostatic disinfectant sprayer and all high-touch areas are sanitized. Antiseptic wipes are always available in the lavatories.

Passengers flying to Canada must upload travel information and proof of vaccination (if applicable) to the ArriveCAN app before the flight.

Service Changes

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

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

Lounges

On the ground, lounges are regularly cleaned in sections using an electrostatic disinfectant sprayer and guests can enjoy prepackaged meals or order via 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 case 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

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

Safety Precautions

France has relaxed travel rules, which called for proof of a negative COVID-19 test, recovery from COVID-19, or proof of vaccination. You can find updated requirements in the Ready to Fly section.

Passengers are required to may 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 passes through the Air France Protect thorough cleaning procedures, which include the use of 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.

Service Changes

For flights within France, snack and beverage service has returned for both economy and business class passengers. Medium-haul flights to Europe and North Africa are starting to see snacks, pastries, and hot and cold beverage service in economy. Passengers in business class are served a breakfast, lunch, or dinner option.

On long-haul fights worldwide, economy passengers now have the option to choose between 2 hot meals. À la carte, Korean, and Chinese menus are no longer offered and Indian vegetarian meals have been modified. Business and La Première passengers can expect normal, full service with multiple hot meals and beverages to choose from.

Lounges

On the ground, lounges have mostly reopened with only a handful of locations still closed. The short list of closed lounges includes:

  • Djibouti (JIB)
  • Lyon (LYS)
  • Paris (CDG) — 2F and 2G
  • Stuttgart (STR)

Air France offers complete details on lounges and safety procedures.

Alaska Airlines

Alaska Airlines has been a leader in onboard safety practices during COVID-19. Starting with a flexible cancellation policy and instructions on how to make your own face mask, Alaska has been a fan favorite.

Passengers returning to the U.S. from abroad can use the VeriFLY app to upload COVID-19 documents and help streamline the arrival process.

Safety Precautions

All passengers over the age of 2 are required to wear a face mask with no exceptions for health waivers. If a guest forgets their mask, a mask will be provided.

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 guests to answer a questionnaire about their health and exposure before boarding. The agreement 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 stopped blocking seats on flights on January 6, 2021.

Service Changes

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

Onboard food and beverage service has been reduced on flights less than 350 miles to limit interaction. Trips over 350 miles have more options, including all-day coffee and tea, as well as alcohol in all cabins.

Lounges

The Next Level Care commitment extends to the lounge experience as well. With 8 lounges to choose from, including the brand new San Francisco (SFO) location, if you’re flying on Alaska, lounges will be available.

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 offerings have been modified to prepackaged options throughout the day, with soups, salads, and more in the evening. There is also a full bar available.

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

Allegiant

You might not have expected it, but Allegiant has some of the best cleaning practices among all airlines. However, the airline never limited loads, and 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 email the Disabilities Team at least 10 days prior to the flight and, if approved, will need to provide a negative COVID-19 test within 3 days of the flight.

Upon request, 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. 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

American Airlines masked flight attendant and passengers
Image Credit: American Airlines

American never blocked seats or scanned temperatures, but the airline did partner with Purell, so you will have access to good hand sanitizer.

AA has been pretty generous with its cancellation policies throughout the pandemic, and, in a surprising move, is even waiving change fees (formerly up to $200) on international flights that originate in North or South America. This is valid for tickets in first class, business class, premium economy, and main cabin, but not basic economy.

American has partnered with LetsGetChecked, a company that provides at-home COVID-19 tests, to facilitate testing for passengers flying to destinations where a negative result is needed for entry.

For passengers flying from Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport (DFW), there is also an option for onsite rapid tests administered by CareNow. American Airlines passengers with at least 10 days before their flight can redeem 12,000 miles for an at-home COVID-19 test.

Additionally, passengers traveling to the U.S. can download the digital health passport app VeriFLY to upload their negative COVID-19 test to a mobile health passport and receive a QR code to help facilitate the check-in process.

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 are available on most international flights and some domestic flights over 900 miles.

On board, high-touch surfaces are disinfected in between flights and all aircraft receive an electrostatic spray once per week, which protects against bacteria, mold, and viruses.

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

Service Changes

Inflight food and beverage service is returning in all cabins, including sandwiches and salads (“Fresh Bites”) on domestic flights — even glassware is making a comeback.

To see what will be available on your flight, check out the American Airlines Travel Experience page.

AA is rewarding employees who take the COVID-19 vaccine with an extra vacation day and $50.

Lounges

On the ground, Admirals Club lounges are reopening with enhanced safety precautions. Meals and snacks are available, as well as full bars for passengers to enjoy. Any additional orders can be made on your smartphone.

Most Flagship Lounges have reopened or will be reopening soon.

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

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

British Airways is taking to the skies with plenty of safety precautions to keep flyers at ease. From touchless check-in to updated lounge offerings and contact tracing, let’s review what BA is doing to keep you safe.

Passengers flying BA will be able to use the VeriFLY app on flights to the U.S., and on the way back to the U.K. can use a prepurchased COVID-19 testing kit from Qured at a very discounted price.

Safety Precautions

According to BA, “You may be required to wear a face mask on board or when disembarking the aircraft, depending on restrictions at your destination.”1 There is 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. Masks are not required at some airports in England.

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 Dettol anti-bacterial hygiene wipe 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, but is slowly returning to normal.

However, all cabins on long-haul flights now receive a hot meal. These meals will continue to be prepackaged and served at once to reduce contact with the crew.

Passengers on short-haul “Euro Traveller” flights can preorder a “Speedbird Cafe” meal from British Chef Tom Kerridge.

Lounges

Select British Airways lounges in Terminal 5 at London Heathrow Airport (LHR) have reopened.

One amenity that will not reopen is the Elemis spa found in the BA lounges at London’s Heathrow and New York’s JFK airports.

Read about British Airways COVID-19 safeguards.

Hot Tip: Check out our full list of U.S. British Airways lounge locations and hours, as well as our guide on how to access British Airways lounges (Concorde, Galleries, Arrival).

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,”2 however there is no official blocking seat policy.

Service Changes

Passengers will notice that the crew wears 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, but according to the video above, it still looks quite nice.

As part of a major restructuring, Cathay Pacific discontinued the Cathay Dragon brand in October 2020. Cathay Pacific has now taken over most of the Cathay Dragon routes to mainland China.

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 Air Lines

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.”3

Delta has also rolled out Delta CareStandard, which 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.

To see when and where Delta is flying, check out this map of travel requirements and restrictions.

Additionally, Delta rolled out an at-home COVID-19 testing program so passengers can test themselves and upload the results before departure and pack another test to take before returning back to the U.S. If you have booked a Delta Vacations package outside of the U.S., your hotel may provide you with an on-site COVID-19 test to adhere to the rules for arriving passengers.

Safety Precautions

For a while, Delta was blocking seats to encourage social distancing, however, that ended in May 2021.

The airline also tried boarding from the back of the plane to the front, but that was scrapped in September 2021 — although Delta One, first class, and Diamond Medallion customers could always board whenever they wanted.

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

Since June 2021, food and beverage offerings have been mostly restored.

Delta One and first class passengers can expect hot food options on coast-to-coast flights, and snacks and beverages are available to all passengers on most flights.

To see what to expect on your next Delta flight, check out the Food, Services & Amenities page.

Lounges

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

Delta has reopened all Sky Clubs as of June 2021.

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

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. If you want to guarantee an empty seat next to you, the airline has introduced the option to purchase the neighboring seat starting at $55. This can be done during check-in at the airport and prices will vary based on how busy the flight is.

Note:All passengers traveling to Dubai must show a certificate of full vaccination or recovery (with QR code) or have a negative COVID-19 PCR test certificate taken within 48 hours to be accepted on the flight. 

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.

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

Service Changes

The flight crews are wearing face masks, and passengers are required to wear them when not eating or drinking.

Premium food and beverage services have been reintroduced, including the business class bar and first class shower on the A380.

Lounges

Guests visiting the lounges at Dubai International Airport (DXB) are 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 beverages can be ordered by scanning a QR code and bringing up a virtual menu.

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

Etihad

Etihad implemented 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.

Fully vaccinated passengers no longer need to provide a negative COVID-19 test to enter Abu Dhabi. Unvaccinated passengers must provide a negative PCR test taken 48 hours before their flight. Children under 16 are exempt.

Safety Precautions

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

Once at the airport,  anyone over the age of 6 is 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 these cabins will receive deep cleanings between flights. As always, aircraft are equipped with HEPA air filters that 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.”4

However, if you are flying in first or business class, you will no longer have access to an inflight Chef or Food and Beverage Manager as those positions have been eliminated by the airline.

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

Frontier flight attendant wearing a mask
Image Credit: Frontier

Frontier has been “working around the clock”5 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 spend 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 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 you bring a snack if you want to eat during your flight.

See how Frontier is committed to your health and safety.

Hawaiian Airlines

Hawaiian Airlines takes COVID-19 very seriously, especially because Hawaii had some of the strictest entry requirements.

Airport employees are 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

Both guests and employees are required to wear face masks throughout the journey.

Cleaning and disinfecting of the aircraft occurs 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 use face masks 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.

Full meal service has resumed, but it is delivered on 1 tray to reduce crew and passenger contact.

First class passengers flying to North America now receive pillows and blankets, however, not the hot towel service.

Lounges

Currently, Lihue (LIH), Kona (KOA), and Hilo (ITO) Premier Club locations are closed. But the Plumeria Lounge and Premier Club locations at Honolulu’s Daniel K. Inouye International Airport (HNL) have reopened, as well as the Premier Club location at Kahului Airport (OGG) in Maui.

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

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.

If you are traveling to a destination that requires a negative COVID-19 test, you can request an at-home COVID-19 test from Vault Health with a discount for JetBlue passengers. You can expect results within 24 hours after the lab receives the sample.

Safety Precautions

As of January 8, 2021, JetBlue stopped blocking middle seats.

Passengers can also book extra seats to guarantee the most space around them.

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 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.

Service Changes

To minimize physical interactions and maximize safety, JetBlue has implemented some new procedures that include inflight crew members wearing masks throughout the flight.

Food, beverage, and goods for sale are available in limited quantities — this includes alcohol, EatUp Boxes, EatUp Café, pillows, and blankets. Complimentary snacks and drinks, as well as the Grab & Go snacks from the Pantry, have returned.

JetBlue also encourages passengers to use their personal devices 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

There are currently no travel bans in the Netherlands.

Safety Precautions

Passengers over the age of 10 are 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.

To check current health requirements and documents needed, passengers can easily check KLM’s TravelDoc.

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 receive a bag containing snacks, fruit, and drinks. Additionally, a salad, hot meal, and dessert are served in economy class. In business class, passengers can expect a salad, hot meal, 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 remain closed.

Check out these 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

LATAM 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 World Health Organization (WHO) recommendations.

Safety Precautions

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

Before and after each flight, all touchpoints on the aircraft are cleaned and disinfected. The airline has developed automated robots that use ultraviolet lights to kill bacteria throughout the plane. The completely autonomous robots can disinfect an entire aircraft in 17 to 35 minutes.

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. LATAM never blocked 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.”6

Service Changes

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

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

Pillows and blankets have been suspended on flights to or from Colombia.

Lounges

Currently, 4 of the 5 LATAM VIP Lounges are open — Santiago (SCL) is closed temporarily.

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

Lufthansa

Lufthansa has rolled out its #WeCare safety program so that “you can fly with no worries.”7

Passengers flying Lufthansa will have plenty of precautions to adhere to, but the most important is for those arriving in Germany, as vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test is required. Visitors can provide a negative test from abroad as long as it is less than 24 to 48 hours old depending on the originating country, or 72 hours if it is a PCR test.

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 have tested positive themselves.

Starting February 1, 2021, Lufthansa will require passengers to wear medical-grade face masks — cloth face coverings will no longer be acceptable. 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.

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

Food and beverage service has mostly returned to normal with a few alterations. However, first class, business class, and premium economy passengers have meals served on fine china.

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 touchpoints.

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

Qantas

Starting November 1, 2021, Qantas resumed flights between Australia and select international destinations. Be sure to visit the Qantas travel updates page to stay up to date on all changes.

Safety Precautions

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

Throughout the airports, hand sanitizer is available, and passengers 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 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 touchpoints. 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. However, service desks have been replaced with self-service kiosks as a cost-cutting measure.

For lounges that remain open, 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 are 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

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.

The airline uses the IATA Travel Pass “digital passport” app, which helps passengers upload and verify their negative COVID-19 test when necessary.

Onboard, passengers can enjoy the IFE systems without having to touch them thanks to new Bluetooth technology being rolled out across its A350 and 787-9 fleet.

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, face masks are mandatory for all passengers over the age of 2.

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

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

Service Changes

The crew wears face masks and gloves. Passengers are 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.

Lounges

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

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

Singapore Airlines

Singapore Airlines economy
Image 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’re flying to Singapore, you will be required to complete an electronic health declaration before your arrival.

Passengers departing from Singapore are 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 receive an SIA Care Kit containing a face mask, hand sanitizer, and disinfectant surface wipe.

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

Service Changes

The flight crew wears face masks and gloves are worn during meal service.

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

First class service has resumed, including the option to Book the Cook.

Lounges

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

The Private Room is still closed.

Southwest Airlines

Southwest has many loyal customers, and during the coronavirus pandemic, the company has built on that goodwill thanks to multiple safety procedures. Although the company is no longer blocking middle seats, there are plenty of other precautions at the airport and onboard.

Southwest also has a very generous change and cancellation policy that you can read about, in-depth.

Safety Precautions

Passengers over the age of 2 flying Southwest are required to wear a face mask during check-in, boarding, on the plane, 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 that 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 175 miles, snacks, water, and soft drinks are served.

For flights under 176 miles, the snack and beverage service remains suspended. Only water is served.

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

Spirit Airlines never blocked seats but had one of the strictest face mask policies even before the federal mandate.

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

Safety Precautions

All passengers over the age of 2 are required to wear a face mask for the duration of their trip. However, as of March 22, 2021, medical exceptions will be made. But 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 wears masks at all times and only serves snacks and beverages upon request.

All seatback literature has been removed to limit unnecessary touchpoints.

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

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

Passengers flying to Portugal will need to provide a negative COVID-19 (molecular RT-PCR) test before boarding their flight.

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 without a mask 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 that 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 have disinfection and cleaning equipment and products at their disposal.

Meal and beverage service has been modified. Food is now served in prepackaged and sealed containers.

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

Lounges

The TAP Premium Lounge at Lisbon International Airport (LIS) is now open.

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

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

The airline 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 have their temperatures checked before boarding, and you are only allowed to board with 1 small, personal item in economy class and 2 items in business class. That personal item must weigh less than 8 kilograms (17.6 pounds). If your item is larger than that, it will be checked at no extra charge.

The boarding process starts with the last row to minimize interaction between passengers. Deplaning consists 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 touchpoints 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 continues to wear personal protective equipment (PPE) and pass out a hygiene kit to passengers, which includes a mask, antiseptic tissue, and hand sanitizer.

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

Passengers in business and economy class on flights longer than 2 hours and 15 minutes receive premium dining and hot meal service.

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

Lounges

Turkish Airlines operates 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

United can’t be left behind when it comes to partnering with a cleaning product, so in collaboration with Clorox, United passengers 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.

In partnership with the CDC, United has a voluntary contact tracing program for international arrivals. At check-in, passengers are asked if they want to share their contact and travel information to be contacted in case they had been exposed to the coronavirus during travel.

Additionally, to help streamline the process of organizing COVID-19 entry requirements, United has launched its Travel Ready Center where passengers can schedule a test, upload any testing and vaccine documents, as well as see what destination requirements are needed. Passengers can easily access the Travel Ready Center through the My Trips section on united.com or via the United app.

Anyone flying United will be happy to know that the airline was the first among the top 4 largest carriers in the U.S. to receive the Diamond status award by APEX Health Safety based on its cleanliness and sanitation efforts.

Safety Precautions

Ground crew and flight attendants are 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.

Once on board, flyers 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 receives an electrostatic spray that 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 required to wear face masks throughout the flight and use 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 receive an “all-in-one” pack which includes a sanitizing wipe, bottle of water, stroopwafel, and a package of pretzels. On flights longer than 2 hours and 2o minutes, all passengers receive this pack and also have the option to purchase fresh food from the Choice Menu.

On international flights, meal service is provided in prepackaged containers all on 1 tray. Pillows and blankets are provided upon request in compliance with local regulations.

All of the latest changes to United Inflight Dining are available online.

Lounges

United Club and United Polaris lounges are reopening. Open locations may be operating with limited service.

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

Hot Tip: If you’re flying United Airlines and need a COVID-19 test, there are plenty of onsite airport options in partnership with XpresCheck.

Virgin Atlantic

Virgin Atlantic has restarted flights to many major cities, almost reaching pre-pandemic levels.

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.

Safety Precautions

Unless on specific routes, masks are required for all crew and passengers over the age of 6 inside aircraft at all times, except when eating or drinking. Passengers with a medical exception 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 refreshed with HEPA filters clearing bacteria and viruses.

Service Changes

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

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

Lounges

Virgin Atlantic Clubhouses, Heathrow Revivals, and the Heathrow Upper Class Wing are reopening. If you are traveling soon, see which lounges are available.

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

WestJet

WestJet has made some changes in response to the COVID-19 pandemic to put “safety above all.”8 At first, that meant many new safety procedures including blocking the middle seats. However, as planes begin to fill up, WestJet has started selling middle seats again.

Safety Precautions

If you are planning on flying with WestJet, they have a few precautions currently in place to keep passengers and crew safe. Starting at the airport, face masks are required for anyone over the age of 2 and passengers 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, and 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 also uses an electrostatic fogger that disinfects an 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 is also available on these flights.

Lounges

Limited lounge access is available. The complete list of lounges available for WestJet passengers can be found here.

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

Airport News

Airports and lounges are constantly evolving and updating policies to better serve passengers. Here are some of the latest changes that might affect your next trip.

American Express

American Express Centurion Lounges COVID Health Changes
Image Credit: American Express

American Express recently renovated its Centurion Lounge at New York’s LaGuardia Airport (LGA) and Las Vegas’ Harry Reid International Airport (LAS).

The LGA location has doubled in size and moved to the airport’s brand new state-of-the-art Terminal B. The new lounge features a family room, workspaces, and a skyline view of New York City.

The LAS location increased from 9,000 to 13,000 square feet with a new reception area, workspaces, and multi-purpose rooms.

Safety Precautions

Members will experience new health and safety protocols, including:

  • Contactless check-in
  • Socially distanced seating
  • Reduced capacity
  • More frequent cleaning
  • Face covering requirements
  • Served food instead of buffet-style

Currently, all of the Centurion Lounges are open, including Charlotte (CLT), Dallas (DFW), Hong Kong (HKG), Houston (IAH), Las Vegas (LAS), Los Angeles (LAX) (reduced grab-and-go dining only), Miami (MIA), New York (JFK), New York (LGA), Philadelphia (PHL), Phoenix (PHX), San Francisco (SFO), and Seattle (SEA).

Hot Tip: If you’re a frequent flyer who enjoys the sanctuary of a lounge before a long flight, you’ll definitely want to consider our guide to the best credit cards for lounge access

CLEAR

Clear kiosk couple masks
Using CLEAR is very easy. You can scan your iris and then proceed directly into the security lanes. Image Credit: CLEAR

CLEAR, the program that uses biometrics to confirm identities to help expedite the security process at many airports and arenas across the country, is making it easier for existing customers to extend their membership due to the pandemic.

Current members may have their membership extended by 3 months, even if they have already received an extension, simply by logging in and asking for a “pause” via the chat feature.

Travelers should still be able to use their account during the pause, however, the billing date will likely be pushed out by 3 months.

Priority Pass

GIG Plaza Premium Lounge
Image Credit: Chris Hassan

Priority Pass has been quiet when it comes to COVID-19 policies. On its website, there is a page dedicated to sanitary recommendations for lounges to follow for safe operations.

In October 2020, the company confirmed that No1 Lounges, found primarily in the U.K. and Australia, are no longer part of the Priority Pass network and later, the Plaza Premium group was removed from that list as well.

If you are traveling soon, it’s best to research the specific airport or lounge you will be visiting to find out if there are modified hours or safety requirements.

Hot Tip: Our guide to COVID-19 testing for travel can guide you to the best available options by airline, airport, and hotel chain.

Final Thoughts

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

With mask mandates, vaccines readily available, and plenty of extra cleaning, getting on a plane in the U.S. is something that many travelers have been doing to make up for lost time.

This list will always be changing, so be sure to check back before your flight!

Safe travels!

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?

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 the 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. Unfortunately, most companies have stopped blocking seats.

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.

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About Chris Hassan

Chris holds a B.S. in Hospitality and Tourism Management and managed social media for all Marriott properties in South America, making him a perfect fit for UP and its social media channels. He has a passion for making content catered toward family travelers.

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