How U.S. Airlines Are Adapting to Ongoing Coronavirus Concerns (Video)
Here's what you need to know.
As travel advisories and alerts surrounding the coronavirus continue to evolve in the U.S., airlines are continuing to cooperate with authorities and accommodate customers concerned about their upcoming trips.
While cases confirmed in the U.S. have spiked to nearly 3,000, according to Johns Hopkins University's real-time map, airlines have acted in accordance with both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the State Department while keeping the health and safety of future fliers in mind.
If you’re wondering about the status of an upcoming trip or considering canceling an upcoming trip with a major U.S. airline, here is what you need to know:
American Airlines has announced a 75 percent reduction in international flights starting on March 16 to May 6, the airline announced in a press release. The airline will operate one flight a day from Dallas Fort Worth to London Heathrow, and Miami to Heathrow. They'll also fly from Dallas Fort Worth to Tokyo three times a week — all other remaining flights to Asia are suspended.
Specifically, the airline has previously announced that flights to Hong Kong are scheduled to begin again on July 2. Mainland China flights will return October 24. Flights to Seoul, South Korea are suspended through May 1.
In wake of the United States' implemented updated travel ban, "Heathrow, Dublin, and Manchester flights from Charlotte, Philadelphia and Phoenix will be suspended faster, as these airports are not approved gateways by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security," the release read.
Flights from Charlotte, N.C. and Philadelphia to Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Madrid, Munich, and Zurich have been suspended, according to a prior press release. Flights from Dallas-Fort Worth, JFK, and Miami to Barcelona, Frankfurt, Madrid, and Paris were still available for up to seven days after Trump's announcement to ensure that Americans can get home and are now suspended until early May.
Also starting on March 16, American Airlines is suspending flights from JFK and Miami to Rio de Janeiro and Georgetown, Guyana. Additionally, flights from Dallas Fort Worth, JFK, and Miami to São Paulo along with service to major airports in Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru are also suspended until May 6.
According to its travel alerts, the airline will waive change fees for customers who purchased tickets before March 1 for travel through April 30, no matter the destination. Customers who purchase tickets until March 31 will also not incur a change fee should they wish to alter their plans.
They are also adjusting their food and beverage service procedures in their club lounges by switching buffet style or self service to portion controlled or packaged options.
American aircraft are cleaned throughout the day with an EPA-approved disinfectant. All international flights receive an even more detailed cleaning each day, which has been enhanced during the outbreak. All crew members have received hand sanitizer and sanitizing wipes for international flights to Italy and across the Pacific. The airline is working to expand this safety measure to all flights.
Delta Air Lines
Delta was one of the first U.S. airlines to respond to the coronavirus, canceling all flights to China from early February through the end of April. As the virus has spread around the world, the airline has issued new policies for travel to other destinations, as well.
With the European travel ban coming into effect, Delta is flying a "significantly reduced US-Europe schedule while monitoring customer demand," their lates press release read. Temporary suspensions include routes from Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Minneapolis, Raleigh and Salt Lake City to Paris. Flights from Orlando, Minneapolis, Portland and Salt Lake City to Amsterdam will also be suspended. Flights from Minneapolis/St. Paul to Paris and Amsterdam have also been suspended.
Beginning March 16 Delta will be operating one flight a day from:
- Atlanta to Amsterdam
- Atlanta to London-Heathrow
- Atlanta to Paris-Charles De Gaulle
- Detroit to Amsterdam
- New York-JFK to London-Heathrow
- New York-JFK to Dublin
The airline has capped fares for travel to Europe through March 20 and is waiving change fees for travelers scheduled for Europe and the UK through May 31.
Delta has also suspended flights to Guatemala, Ecuador, and St. Maarten.
All tickets issued between March 1 and 31 are not subject to change fees, according to the Delta website. And travelers scheduled to travel international or domestic until April 30 can change their flights for free, if the ticket was purchased before March 9. Passengers with travel scheduled to Europe and the UK, Shanghai, Beijing, Seoul can change their flights through May 31.
Additionally, in the beginning of April, the airline announced that the ability to rebook travel was extended to up to two years. The two year window applies to flights that were booked in April and May of this year. Their tickets, that typically expire after one year of purchase, are able to be redeemed and with waived fees through May 31, 2022.
Delta is also trimming its domestic capacity by 10 to 15 percent over the coming weeks to respond to the decrease in demand for travel.
When it comes time to travel, Delta is not only disinfecting its planes between flights but the check-in kiosks and gates at the airport, according to a Delta blog post.
United has waived change fees for all scheduled travel through April 30. The waiver has no purchase time or destination restrictions. All tickets purchased from March 3 through March 31 won’t be subject to change fees, either.
The airline capped fares from the U.S. to destinations in Europe affected by the travel ban. The airline will fly its regular European schedule through March 20. After that date, United said it expects to continue daily service to Zurich, Brussels, Paris, Amsterdam, Manchester and Edinburgh. It will continue 18 daily flights to and from London. Multiple daily flights will also continue to Frankfurt, Munich and Dublin. Four flights per week will continue to Lisbon.
The airline has suspended its flights between the U.S. and Beijing, Chengdu, Hong Kong and Shanghai through April 30.
In addition to enhanced cleaning procedures, United announced it will soon begin fogging planes that operate international service. All international arrivals at United’s hub airports (Chicago O’Hare, Denver, Houston George Bush Intercontinental, Los Angeles, Newark, Washington Dulles), Guam and Honolulu will undergo an electrostatic fogger to disinfect the air and all cabin surfaces.
If the CDC advises the airline that a passenger or employee exhibited coronavirus symptoms, the plane they were on is taken out of service and “sent through a full decontamination process that includes our standard cleaning procedures plus washing ceilings and overhead bins and scrubbing the interior,” according to the airline’s website.
Southwest is continually monitoring the spread of the coronavirus, it said in a safety update. No routes or flights have been canceled due to the virus as none of its destinations are currently considered geographic risks by the CDC.
The airline’s policy already allows travelers to change or cancel their travel plans without penalty, so there’s no need to worry about change fees if you’re canceling an upcoming flight (although a fare difference may apply). Nonrefundable tickets can be used within one year of the original travel date.
On March 4, the airline stepped up its cabin cleaning procedures in response to the spread of the virus. Every single aircraft in the fleet spends six to seven hours being cleaned each night. A hospital-grade disinfectant is used on all “high-touch areas such as interior windows and shades, every seatbelt buckle, passenger service units (including the touch buttons that control reading lights and vents that direct personal air), as well as seat surfaces, tray tables, armrests, etc,” the airline shared in a blogpost.
They also have stopped routine beverage service. As of March 18, the airline will only be serving canned water by request to limit contact between flight attendants and passengers, a spokesperson confirmed to USA Today. On flights under 250 miles, snacks and beverages will not be provided, however on any flight, passengers are welcome to bring their own water in bottles purchased at the airport or filled up after getting through security.
No matter the class of service purchased, JetBlue is waiving change and cancellation fees for tickets purchased by March 5 for travel through June 1. New tickets purchased from now until March 31, with travel by September 8, will also not be subject to change or cancellation fees, the airline announced in a blog post.
JetBlue has also increased its onboard cleaning procedures at this time.
In a detailed memo to customers released on March 18, the airline also outlined the loss in earnings they've suffered, — reporting that on a typical March day in 2019 they'd take in $22 million whereas a March day in 2002 they're earning $4 million a day — their chief-level officers are taking pay cuts and they're also calling on the government to intervene.
Passengers with Alaska Airlines can change or cancel their flights with no penalty, according to the airline’s coronavirus policy. Travel through April 30 can be canceled or changed, regardless of when it was purchased. And no change or cancellation fees will apply to tickets purchased from February 27 until March 31.
Alaska Airlines has also enhanced cleaning aboard all aircraft. A thorough overnight cleaning process disinfectants all points that passengers may touch while they’re aboard an Alaska aircraft.