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What is it like to Fly Now? Coronavirus and Flying

 

What is it Like to Fly Now?

June 2, 2020 – Curious about when we can safely return to the friendly skies? The world’s airlines and airports understand that they need to take extra steps to protect passengers from infection in the coronavirus era. When you fly next, you’ll notice changes in both airports and airlines, all designed to make flying safer.

This article summarizes the safety measures announced by airlines and airports. We will also share statements from the TDSA plus the CEOs of AA, Delta, and Jet Blue which detail the steps they are taking to protect their passengers. Please contact WIMCO’s Air Department for any questions about reserving flights, and about the low fares we are seeing for travel abroad.

What are the TSA, Airports, and Airlines doing to make flying safer in the Coronavirus era?

To make the experience of flying safer, all three parties are implementing measures to reduce the risk of infection.

 

What is the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) doing to make flying safer?

TSA remains in close communication with medical professionals, the CDC, and various government agencies as they continue to carry out their important mission at airports.  The TSA is taking the following steps to make your time in an airport safer:

  • All TSA employees will wear face masks and gloves when checking your luggage and personal belongings
  • Keep possession of their boarding passes: Instead of handing their boarding pass to a TSA officer at the travel document podium, travelers should now place their boarding pass (paper or electronic) on the boarding pass reader themselves. After scanning, travelers should hold their boarding pass toward the TSA officer to allow the officer to visually inspect it. This change reduces the TSA officer’s need to touch a passenger’s boarding pass thus reducing potential for cross-contamination
  • Separate food for X-ray screening: Passengers should place their carry-on food items into a clear plastic bag and place that bag into a bin. Food items often trigger an alarm during the screening process. Separating the food from the carry-on bag lessens the likelihood that a TSA officer will need to open the carry-on bag and remove the food items for a closer inspection. This requirement allows social distancing, reduces the TSA officer’s need to touch a person’s container of food and reduces potential for cross-contamination. TSA Pre-Check members do not need to remove items from their bags.
  • Temperature screening for departures –  The scanners used to take passenger temperatures would likely be a mix of tripods that can scan multiple people at once and hand-held thermal devices stated a White House spokesperson. Passengers with a temperature reading of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or higher would be flagged. Those testing above the acceptable range will not be permitted to fly. Officials haven’t yet decided whether the scanning will take place at the start of the security process or toward the end. This will provide a safer flying experience for everyone else from passengers to flight attendants to crew. This is being rolled out to a few airports at a time, starting in June.
  • You’ll now see visual reminders of appropriate spacing on checkpoint floors
  • To reduce contact with the x-ray bins, wallets, keys or phone may now be placed in your carry-on property
  • Each passenger can now carry-on one 12-ounce bottle of alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Travelers are also permitted to bring individually-packaged alcohol or anti-bacterial wipes in carry-on or checked luggage. Jumbo containers of hand wipes are also allowed in carry-on or checked luggage.
  • Regarding acceptable ID, If your license expired on or after March 1, don’t panic. If your driver’s license or state-issued ID expired on or after March 1, 2020, and you are unable to renew at your state driver’s license agency, you may still use it as acceptable identification at the checkpoint. TSA will accept expired driver’s licenses or state-issued ID a year after expiration or 60 days after the duration of the emergency, whichever is longer. By the way, the Department of Homeland Security recently announced an extension of time to obtain a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license. The new deadline is October 1, 2021.

May 11 – Airlines for America (an airline industry association) announced that its member carriers are supporting the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to begin checking the temperature of the traveling public and customer-facing employees as long as necessary during the COVID-19 (coronavirus) public health crisis. This measure is now under consideration at the TSA.

What are Airports are doing to make flying safer?

Domestic and international airports are working to set-up new procedures to reduce the risk of infection in their airports:

  • The US Government is instructing people to wear masks when they are out in public spaces
  • All international airports have added hand sanitizer stations in the terminals
  • Airport bathrooms are now cleaned and disinfected more frequently
  • Health screening at major international airports (See airport list from DHS below)

 

What are Airlines are doing to make flying safer?

Airlines understand that passengers need to feel that the environment in each plane is free from infectious diseases:

  • Air quality – Planes are using enhanced air filtration during flights, and disinfecting planes between flights (see detail below). According to the CDC, cabin air cycles through an airplane’s HEPA filters between 20 to 30 times per hour, and about 99.9% of aerosols, bacteria, contagions, and viruses are effectively removed.
  • Face masks for passengers – On April 27 Jet Blue started requiring al passengers to wear facemasks. American will start supplying passengers with face masks as they board in May. Other airlines are expected to follow.
  • Boarding – Delta is boarding passengers 10 at a time, starting the seats at the rear of the plane, so passengers don’t have to pass each other while boarding. Other airlines are expected to follow suit.
  • Seating – There is no FAA rule to enforce CDC guidelines on spacing within airplanes, however, most major airlines are voluntarily blocking off or not ticketing most middle seats to create more space between passengers. Participating airlines include Jet Blue, American, Delta, Spirit and Alaska Airlines
  • Seating – Most airlines are allowing passengers to change seat selection once the airplane fills-up to provide greater space between passengers
  • Face masks for light attendants  – wear masks and gloves, and they are allowed to relocate from the seats they would normally occupy so they can observe social distancing. American, Delta, United, JetBlue, and Frontier make that obligatory for its cabin crew.
  • In-flight food and beverage service is reduced, so passengers have less contact with attendants
  • Airlines have moved to “no change fee” policies for date changes

 

What are the CEOs of major Airlines are saying about making flying safer?

These airlines are taking steps to make flying safer in the coronavirus era. Click on the links below for details:

 

WIMCO’s Air Department is offering several programs to its clients to make international air travel safer and more comfortable in the coronavirus era. Contact us at airreservations@wimco.com for details about these services.

  • Luggage-free baggage shipping service so clients can avoid the crowds in baggage-claim
  • VIP transfer services in San Juan and St Martin airports to limit your exposure to contact and crowds
  • VIP transfer service for all legs of a trip – avoid crowds at security, boarding gate and baggage claim with Gilded Globe
    Cancel for any reason travel insurance – not sure you want to travel, for any reason?
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Appendix

A. What are airlines doing to make the environment inside airplanes safer in the coronavirus era? Read about air filtration and disinfection measures being implemented.

Delta is using a high-grade, EPA-registered disinfectant to wipe down surface areas in galleys and lavatories. The airline also started a “fogging process” that pushes out an EPA-registered disinfectant.

American Airlines and United Airlines said they are also using high-grade disinfectants and multipurpose cleaners on all surfaces. This includes window shades, armrests, and tray tables. Aircraft that remain overnight at an airport receive an enhanced cleaning procedure.

 

FAA Guidelines on airline cleanliness issued on April 17  – Provide sufficient quantities of cleaning and disinfectant products (e.g., disinfectant wipes) that are effective against COVID-19, compatible with aircraft for crew members to use on surfaces they touch frequently in the galley, in the passenger cabin, and on the flight deck. Increase the frequency of routine cleaning of the aircraft to focus on the most frequently touched surfaces per CDC’s Interim Guidance for Airline and Aircrew. After each flight, clean and disinfect surfaces in the galley, passenger cabin, and areas that are frequently touched by crew members, such as buttons and dials that control cabin lighting and temperature, safety demonstration equipment, phone handsets, and touchscreens. Use products that are effective against COVID-19, compatible with aircraft, and approved by the aircraft manufacturer for use on board the aircraft.

B. List of airports where international arrivals are being screened for the coronavirus. Effective on Friday, March 13th, Americans returning from all restricted countries will now be required to travel through the following 13 airports where health screen stations are set-up:

  • Boston-Logan International Airport (BOS), Massachusetts
  • Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD), Illinois
  • Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW), Texas
  • Detroit Metropolitan Airport (DTW), Michigan
  • Daniel K. Inouye International Airport (HNL), Hawaii
  • Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL), Georgia
  • John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK), New York
  • Los Angeles International Airport, (LAX), California
  • Miami International Airport (MIA), Florida
  • Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR), New Jersey
  • San Francisco International Airport (SFO), California
  • Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA), Washington
  • Washington-Dulles International Airport (IAD), Virginia

Upon arrival, travelers returning from abroad will proceed to the standard customs processing area. They will then continue to an “enhanced entry screening” area where each passenger will be asked about their medical history, current condition, and asked for contact information for local health authorities. Passengers will then be given written guidance about COVID-19 and directed to proceed to their final destination. If travelers are coming from a designated coronavirus “hot spot” they may be asked to voluntarily home-quarantine for 14 days in accordance with CDC best practices.

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