Mandatory masks. Empty seats. Boarding from front-to-back. Deep cleaning and spraying between each flight.
Coronavirus didn't just decimate travel – it has changed the entire flying experience, at least for now. Many airlines across the globe have implemented new safety and cleanliness measures to convince flyers to combat the spread of coronavirus and convince flyers to return to the sky.
But there are few overarching requirements in the U.S., and every airline is handling it differently. Some carriers are doing the bare minimum (or close to it), while others have made safety the cornerstone of their coronavirus playbook. It's difficult to know what you may find on your next flight.
The Seattle Times took an in-depth look at each of the 10 largest U.S. airlines' safety and cleanliness procedures and boiled it down into a simple-to-understand chart.
As you can tell, just what you'll find onboard will depend heavily on which airline you're flying.
- Delta and Alaska Airlines clearly stand out on this list. Delta is emphasizing safety more than almost any carrier by blocking middle seats on all flights through at least Sept. 30 and boarding from back-to-front. JetBlue and Alaska are doing the same, though they're only blocking middle seats only through July 6 and July 31, respectively.
- Southwest is a bit different, as the airline doesn't assign seats but allows travelers to pick on a first-come, first-served basis. But the airline is effectively blocking middle seats by capping ticket sales on each flight.
- All airlines except for Allegiant are requiring passengers to wear masks in-flight, but whether airlines will actually enforce this requirement is another question. Airlines have promised to step up by threatening to ban passengers who refuse from future flights – American Airlines even kicked a passenger off last week. But other airlines including Delta and United say they won't remove passengers.
- It may not catch all coronavirus cases, but Frontier Airlines is the only carrier currently screening passengers for high temperatures.
- Budget carriers Allegiant and Spirit aren't cleaning planes between every flight, while the rest of the major U.S. airlines are doing so.
While safety and cleanliness are front-and-center as more Americans start flying, there are plenty of differences between what that means on each airline.
What airline stands out most to you? Who are you most willing to fly with now?
Lead photo courtesy of Delta via Flickr
Hi Kyle, My husband just took 4 Southwest flights, and almost no one
was wearing masks on the plane. Even though they made an
announcement on each flight–no one was enforcing it. He’s furious, as he
was flying to and from Florida on business. He wrote to WN,
but of course, no answer.
Hi Kyle…just a comment about onboard service during the height of this pandemic. You mentioned American Airlines onboard service as limited….why do you think that is? I’m a flight attendant for American and one of the reasons we’ve limited service is to keep people wearing there masks as much as possible. Why would we serve drinks to give people ( none of whom have been pre tested for Covid-19 and also some may be asymtimatic) the permission to remove their masks and contaminate the cabin air? Wouldn’t you feel safer knowing that we aren’t giving people permission to remove their masks?
Absolutely! I have absolutely no problem with service being limited on any airline: It’s for a good reason. But it’s more about informing people not to expect much service so they have as much information as possible heading into their flights – not complaining in anyway about the relative lack of service.