Our lives have all been upended by COVID-19, both professional and personal, and every industry has been impacted. Travel and tourism has been one of the hardest hit, as lockdowns and fear of contracting the virus have reduced travel to a bare minimum. While some travel has resumed, at least 60% of hotel room remain unused, despite the health and safety precautions being implemented in hotels.
Anecdotally, just about everyone I have spoken to over the past few weeks has no desire to get on a plane for any reason at this point. They simply aren’t interested in the risks.
To help convince people it’s OK to fly again, airlines – like hotels, restaurants, retail stores, and other businesses – are taking steps to protect their passengers and staff. Delta, for instance, details its passenger experience from check-in to luggage pickup, including both employees and passengers to wear masks at all times. It starts with a partnership with Quest Diagnostics and Mayo Clinic to test nearly all employees over the next four weeks.
At check-in, in addition to requiring face masks, Delta is requiring passenger self-assessments, including an agreement to wear their masks at all times during travel. Employees are required to undergo temperature screenings before reporting for work, and all kiosks, counters, and baggage stations are being sanitized frequently, and sanitizer dispensers have been added throughout the check-in and gate areas. Check-in counters have been retrofitted with Plexiglass barriers to protect employees and passengers, and floor markings help passengers maintain appropriate distancing. As most airlines are these days, Delta also offers a touchless check-in experience through its Fly Delta mobile app.
Security and Gate Areas
Similar procedures are being followed at security checkpoints and gate areas. Delta is using electrostatic spraying with high-grade disinfectant in gate areas and jet bridges to disperse disinfectant in a fine mist. Touchless boarding is available with the mobile app, and the boarding process has been adjusted to go from back to front, with 10 passengers being allowed to board at a time.
Perhaps most importantly, what’s happening once you board the plane?
Flight crews are required to follow an extensive checklist and may delay flights and recall cleaning crews if inspections aren’t passed. Cleaning includes electrostatic spraying throughout the entire cabin. Lavatories and overhead bins are also sanitized after each flight. In addition to blocking middle seats, Delta has implemented seating caps on its flights: 50% in first class and Delta One cabins with one aisle; 60% in Main Cabin, Delta Comfort+, and Delta Premium Select; and 75% in Delta One cabins with two aisles. All blankets and bedding are washed and main cabin pillows are disposed of after each flight. Delta aircraft are ventilated with fresh air that is recirculated through high-grade HEPA filters, which extract more than 99.99% of particles.
In-flight beverage service has also changes, with only bottled water available on domestic flights, unless you’re flying in Comfort+ or first class seats, where you’ll still be able to get wine and beer. No plastic cups, ice or alcohol is available in the main cabin. International travelers will have a full selection of beverage and meal options.
Complimentary Care Kits with a face mask and sanitizing wipe are available to passengers upon request
When deplaning, flight attendants will let each passenger know when they may exit the aircraft.
Finally, once you arrive at your destination, Delta says it is following the same cleaning and sanitization processes it has in place at gate and check-in areas, including spraying, floor markings, hand sanitizer stations, and Plexiglass shields.
These are all very reasonable things to be doing during the pandemic, though many of them seem to be precautions that should be taken at all times. While most people may not be swayed to travel simply because of these procedures, they will help keep passengers who are willing to or have to fly a little safer, which is why much of these processes should become standard procedure permanently.