Airlines in the US are finding themselves at a crossroads. While a priority is driving up revenues to account for the heavy losses incurred in March, April, and May, the concern for the safety and comfort of passengers is also at the forefront and the two seldom complement each other without compromise.
Most carriers in the US require their passengers to wear some form of face coverings, with only a small minority of airlines not mandating the practice now recommended by the Centers for Disease Control when social distancing isn’t an option. Blocking middle seats and limiting flight loads has also been adopted by a few of the larger and mid-tier airlines, though some have abandoned that practice after seeing high demand on certain flights.
Take a look at the largest US airlines are approaching this pandemic as travel begins to rebound across the country:
American is not blocking middle seats but is limiting flight loads to prevent completely full flights and requiring face coverings to be worn on every flight. If a flight is filling up, American will notify passengers, typically by email, and offer the option to change to an alternate flight free of charge. The airline’s aircraft cleaning procedure also includes fogging using an electrostatic sprayer before each flight.
Delta is blocking middle seats and certain aisle seats on its aircraft in an effort to limit loads to 50% in first class and 60% in economy cabins. It recently extended this policy until September 30 and is now also increasing capacity on high demand routes. The airline currently distributes an essentials kit to passengers including a water bottle, snacks, and hand sanitizer.
United recently amended its social distancing policy, which no longer includes blocked middle seats and limited flight loads, to allow passengers with full flights to make a change free of charge. The airline is also requiring passengers to wear face coverings while onboard. On flights longer then 2 hours and 20 minutes, United will distribute amenity bags with a sanitizing wipe, water bottle, and snacks. The airline is disinfecting its aircraft with an electrostatic sprayer.
Southwest does not allow pre-assigned seats but will limit the number of seats sold on its aircraft to ensure that middle seats can be left open for those not traveling together. Face coverings are required on Southwest flights. The airline also disinfects its aircraft using an electrostatic sprayer, with sanitary wipes available on request.
JetBlue is blocking middle seats on its Airbus A320 aircraft and certain aisle seats on its Embraer E190 aircraft until July 7. Face coverings are required to be worn by passengers and flight attendants will also be subject to temperature checks. JetBlue is also disinfecting its aircraft with an electrostatic sprayer.
Alaska is blocking middle and certain aisle seats on its aircraft until June 30, as well as requiring face coverings for all passengers and customer-facing employees who cannot maintain social distancing. The airline will provide face coverings for those who do not have. Alaska is also utilizing electrostatic sprayers to disinfect aircraft.
Hawaiian Airlines is not blocking middle seats onboard its aircraft but is requiring the use of face coverings for all passengers. Hawaiian also employs the use of an electrostatic sprayer to disinfect its aircraft via fogging.
Spirit is not blocking middle seats but is also requiring the use of face coverings. The airline is also disinfecting its aircraft with electrostatic sprayers.