Many Americans are planning to travel for the first time this upcoming holiday season but still have concerns about safety during a pandemic. Here’s a look at the cleaning and social distancing policies of each major airline, including which ones offer blocked middle seats on flights.
Common air travel requirements
Without federally mandated guidelines on social distancing, airlines have been on their own when it comes to COVID protocols, but they’re all quite similar across the airlines. These include:
- A requirement that all passengers wear a mask (except children under the age of two), which can only be removed briefly when you eat or drink on the plane. Expect to wear masks in the gate prior boarding, during the entire flight, and during deplaning. Your mask should cover your nose and mouth and fit snugly under the chin.
- Six-feet markers on the ground at our gates, as well as ticket counters and baggage claim areas.
- Signing a health agreement as part of the flight check-in process confirming that you have not COVID-19 symptoms in the past 72 hours.
People like empty middle seats in the best of times, but only four airlines currently offer flights without occupied middle seats. Struggling airlines have been rolling back empty middle seat flights, however, so don’t expect them to last.
Also, expect more pre-flight COVID testing. American Airlines, United Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, and JetBlue Airways are rolling out pre-flight testing services which allow travelers to avoid the two-week isolation period required at some destinations. Here’s what each airline is doing to make to make it safer and easier to fly.
Alaska Airlines says they clean planes with a high-grade EPA disinfectant before each flight and will provide masks available for passengers who don’t have them. Lounges are open at limited capacity, with enhanced cleaning procedures and adjusted food and beverage services. Check out their travel advisory page for more details.
Do they have flights without middle seats? Yes, flights with middle seats blocked off are available through to January 6, 2021, although extra space is not guaranteed as seats might be assigned for passengers of a previously cancelled flight.
The airline cleans planes on a “regular schedule” of hospital-grade cleaning procedures, according to their website. Complimentary safety kits are available for every customer at the airport and includes a single-use face mask and two sanitizing wipes. Check out their travel advisory page for more details.
Do they have flights without middle seats? No, although customers can request a notification if a booked flight exceeds 65% capacity, along with a list of alternate flight options.
The airline says it thoroughly cleans aircraft between flights using an EPA-approved disinfectant. All planes receive a thorough electrostatic spraying once a week. Change fees for First, Business, Premium Economy and Main Cabin tickets issued on or after August 3 for short-haul international flights have been eliminated. Check out their travel advisory page for more details.
Do they have flights without middle seats? No, but for flights where at least 70% of passengers have checked in, customers will have the option to move to another flight free of charge.
Delta Air Lines
The company website says they use electrostatic sprayers to sanitize planes with a high-grade disinfectant and then performs extensive manual cleaning procedures to wipe down cabin surfaces. Delta is waiving change fees for all tickets purchased March 1 through December 31, 2020. Check out their travel advisory page for more details.
Do they have flights without middle seats? Yes. Delta Air Lines continues to block middle seats and limit passengers for each flight (although use of the middle seat can be arranged for passengers traveling with two or more other people) until at least January 6, 2021. First class cabin capacity is 50% through that date as well.
Frontier cleans planes before each flight with EPA-approved cleaning solutions, according to their website. Aircraft are cleaned an additional four to six hours each night between flights using a cleaning agent that the company says is effective against viruses for 30 days. All passengers and crew will get their temperature taken at the gate using a touchless thermometer. Anyone with a temperature of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or higher will not be able to board the plane. Check out their travel advisory page for more details.
Do they have flights without middle seats? No, Frontier scrapped a plan to charge for a blocked middle seat last May.
Hawaiian says they are thoroughly disinfecting all planes after each flight using electrostatic spray of EPA-approved hospital-grade disinfectants. Travelers seeking to avoid Hawaii’s mandatory 14-day self-quarantine can show a negative COVID result from no later than 72 hours before flight departure. The Plumeria Lounge in Honolulu and all Premier Club locations are temporarily closed. Check out their travel advisory page for more details.
Do they have flights without middle seats? Yes, although your exact seating might be changed at the gate to maximize spacing throughout the cabin.
The airline conducts deep cleans of its aircraft each night using a hospital-grade disinfectant effective against the coronavirus, according to its website. JetBlue offers an at-home saliva-based COVID-19 test that can be taken 72 hours before flights. The airline also distributes Personal Protection Packs, which includes hand sanitizer and two disinfectant wipes for customers to use on board. Check out their travel advisory page for more details.
Do they have flights without middle seats? Yes, but it’s not guaranteed. JetBlue is capping seat sales at 70% through at least December 1, 2020, though the airline is no longer guaranteeing that you won’t be seated next to a stranger, as some middle seats might be assigned.
The company says they use EPA-approved, hospital-grade disinfectant in the cabin, and that each aircraft is cleaned for more than six hours every night. The company does not charge fees to change or cancel flights. Check out their travel advisory page for more details.
Do they have flights without middle seats? No. However, Southwest has capped the number of passengers per flight capacity to 66% since May, but that will end December 1.
Spirit says it uses two EPA-registered “fogging” treatments to disinfect their aircraft. The first applies a safe, high-grade disinfectant effective against COVID and the second is an antimicrobial barrier that kills bacteria and viruses on contact for 30 days. The company is waiving change and cancellation fees for customers that book travel by Saturday, October 31 2020. Check out their travel advisory page for more details.
Do they have flights without middle seats? No, although the airline says it’s not assigning middle seats during booking unless it has to.
The company says it uses electrostatic spraying to disinfect the cabin, floor to ceiling, on all aircraft before departure. They also disinfect switches and touch-screen displays in our pilot flight decks with Ultraviolet C lighting wands. In cases where more than 70% of passengers have checked in, the airline will allow customers to move to another flight free of charge. The airline says gate agents will also board fewer passengers at a time.
Check out their travel advisory page for more details.
Do they have flights without middle seats? No.
Before making international travel plans, make sure you know whether your destination requires a 14-day quarantine or additional COVID testing.