US airlines are gearing up to make not only masks mandatory for passengers and crew but also tightening safety measures to prevent the spread of the deadly coronavirus during air travel. Most US airline have already drawn a new set of rules that passengers and crew need to follow over the next few weeks and even in days to come as the coronavirus pandemic continues to spread its tentacles.
Needless to say, there is no point imagining that the sky is safer from the clutches of the coronavirus. Empty airports, parked aircraft and hundreds of flight cancellations prove how severely the coronavirus pandemic has affected air travel in the United States. However, with states gradually lifting restrictions in an attempt to restart the economy, airlines companies too are expecting air travel to slowly pick up but they are ultra cautious about the safety of the flyers and crew.
US airlines make masks must for flyers
The largest US airlines are making facial covering must for all flyers over the next two weeks. Last week three of the largest four US airlines said they will require passengers to wear facial coverings on US flights. The four airlines are United Airlines, Delta Air Lines and American Airlines Group. The four airlines were soon joined by JetBlue and now all other major airlines are following suit. The new rules come to effect starting May 4.
However, a few airlines will implement the measures from May 8 and May 11. The new rules are also applicable for employees. Alaska Airlines and Delta Airlines said that employees who can't maintain a six-foot social distance from others will need to wear masks starting May 4, while passengers must wear masks beginning May 11. Allegiant will provide masks, hand wipes and gloves to all its flyers.
Flight attendants of American Airlines are already required to wear masks from May 1, while passengers will have to follow the same rules beginning May 11. Employees of Frontier Airlines will have to wear masks regardless of their role and responsibilities.
Flights tighten other safety measures
Facial covering is just one of the many safety measures being implemented by the US airlines. From using electrostatic fogging machines to virus testing to pre-boarding temperature checks, airlines are adopting different measures in a bid to protect crew and flyers from the virus. United Airlines has already bought hundreds of hospital-like electrostatic fogging machines that it plans to use to clean and disinfect it aircraft crevices and cabin surfaces before every flight. The airline plans to start using the machines from June.
Also, airlines are lobbying through Airlines of America and are already initiating talks with the Federal government for safety measures like pre-boarding temperature checks and virus tests. The requirements are being made by the airlines individually and are not mandated by the Federal Aviation Administration. The new rules will soon reflect in the contracts of carriage and put up on their websites.
Alaska Airlines has decided to block all middle seats on aircraft that have them, while those without will have their aisle seats blocked. Also onboard food and drink service will be limited. Delta too has blocked all its middle seats. American Airlines won't assign half of the middle seats and those near flight attendants' jump seats. Allegiant will be selling food only in pre-packed containers, while American Airlines and Delta have limited their food and beverage option and closed most of its lounges.
Southwest too has limited the number of passengers onboard so that middle seats remain unoccupied. However, it will allow two people to sit together if they are traveling together. United Airlines too has blocked all its middle seats on aircraft that have them. For aircraft without middle seats, some aisle seats will be blocked.