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American Express Travel: Air Travel Safety

 

It has been more than a year since COVID-19 caused a global shutdown. And although vaccines are now available and being administered in record numbers, COVID-19 and its wide range of variants are still top of mind for public health officials, airlines, and travelers flying during the pandemic. Spring, however, is upon us – and along with its arrival has come a renewed desire to expand our horizons, venture out into the world, and experience the sights, sounds, and flavors we've been dreaming of. 

A couple sitting in an airport wearing face masks

What safety and cleaning standards has the airline industry introduced in response to COVID-19?

Even though, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), "most viruses and other germs do not spread easily on flights because of how air is circulated and filtered on airplanes," airlines have made changes to their flight procedures in order to address the safety of their passengers and crew. 

 

These changes often include:

  • Upgrading airplane air filtration systems with HEPA filters, which are high-efficiency particulate air filters that have, according to the CDC, the ability to capture "no less than 99.7 percent of human-generated viral particles associated with SARS-CoV-2" – the virus known as COVID-19. 
  • Enhanced cleaning measures.
  • Face mask requirements for passengers and crew members.
  • Rapid COVID-19 testing for crew members, and test kits available for passengers1

But that's just the beginning. Let's take a look at what, specifically, some of the largest airlines are doing to help address air safety concerns2.

A woman wearing a face mask on an airplane

What safety and cleaning standards has American Airlines introduced as part of its Clean Commitment?

In order to make air travel safer and as part of its Clean Commitment, American Airlines has installed HEPA filters on all mainline and most regional aircraft, established a mask mandate, installed commercial-grade shields at service desks and counters, and provides enhanced cleaning of high-touch surfaces at the airport, including kiosks, ticket counters and seating areas. Onboard their planes, American Airlines uses an EPA-approved disinfectant to deep clean all areas of the passenger cabins and crew areas, including tray tables, seatbelt buckles, armrests, window shades, seatback screens, door and bin handles. Aircraft cabins are also treated with SurfaceWise®2 – a coating that provides enhanced protection by the sustained killing of 99.9% of viruses, including coronaviruses, on surfaces.

 

To enhance passenger safety and comfort, American Airlines began testing touchless technology throughout its Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) terminals and select Admirals Club Lounges at the DFW airport. And for those checking bags, the airline has introduced a simple way to use the American Airlines app to print tags for bags, as well as the ability to interact with a virtual assistant or chat live with a live customer service representative.

 

For international travelers, American Airlines has expanded its acceptance of VeriFLY, which allows customers to upload their required travel documentation based on their travel destination, including any COVID-19 testing documentation. Additionally, AAdvantage® members can now redeem miles to order at-home COVID-19 testing kits. The pre-flight testing program covers nine countries and any U.S. city, state or territory that has COVID-19 travel restrictions. 

What safety and cleaning standards has Delta Air Lines introduced with Delta CareStandardSM?

By instituting Delta CareStandard, Delta Air Lines has worked to limit or eliminate touch points during the check-in process and certain in-flight services – for instance, flight attendants are no longer allowed to help passengers stow their bags. The airline has put in place more than 100 layers of protection to ensure a safer travel experience, including ongoing mask requirements and regularly sanitizing high-touch surfaces.  They have partnered with trusted experts from the medical field and leaders in disinfection and sanitization to help Delta revolutionize a safer and cleaner travel experience for all customers and their employees. At the airport, you'll find that Delta has installed plexiglass shields at all of its counters and enhanced cleaning procedures at the counters and during baggage handling. And because the negative-COVID tests are required when re-entering the U.S., Delta Vacations now only offers international hotel accommodations that provide onsite coronavirus testing. 

 

On flights, Delta says their aircraft air is recirculated every 2-6 minutes with fresh, outside air or through industrial-grade HEPA filters, and Lysol® products are used to clean and disinfect surfaces during and between flights.

 

 

A couple sitting in an airport wearing face masks
A woman wearing a face mask on an airplane

What safety and cleaning standards has United Airlines introduced with United CleanPlusSM?

United is committed to putting health and safety at the forefront of every customer's journey, with the goal of delivering an industry-leading standard of cleanliness through its United CleanPlus program. United has teamed up with Clorox® and Cleveland Clinic to redefine cleaning and health safety procedures from check-in to landing and has implemented more than a dozen new policies, protocols and innovations designed with the safety of customers and employees in mind. This includes having aircraft cleaning standards meet or exceed CDC guidelines, regularly disinfecting high-touch areas like arm rests, door handles, and seat belts, using Clorox Total 360 electrostatic sprayers to disinfect aircraft cabins, and enhancing airplane air filtration by installing high-efficiency HEPA filters.

 

Through the United Travel Ready Center customers can easily access testing or vaccine requirements needed for travel destinations, upload completed testing results and vaccine records as well as have them verified - all within the United App. Customers can now choose from more than 200 COVID-19 testing providers across the country, book appointments and receive confirmation whether their test results meet their destination's requirements. Once the test is validated, customers will see a status indicator informing them that they are "travel-ready" and receive their mobile boarding pass. This new and updated ability is just one of the many industry-first solutions United has introduced to make travel easier and safer during the pandemic. 

The Bottom Line

Airlines have historically wanted their flights to be as safe and enjoyable as possible.  While no flight, hotel, restaurant or event comes with a 100 percent guarantee, airlines – and the travel industry is working to help their guests and crew stay healthy and safe as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to unfold.  

If you have questions about how safe air travel is on a specific airline, please review the airline's website for details on their health and safety enhancements. In addition, you'll find more COVID-19 information at American Express Travel, as well as quick, simple ways to plan your next trip. 

A woman wearing a face mask on an airplane

1https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/testing-air-travel.html

2Some enhancements may not be available at all airports or on all flights