Disinfectants, Masks and Essential Travel: What’s New for Airlines

Airlines continue to reshape their strategies in this new COVID-19 (coronavirus) landscape. Here’s a roundup of the latest news.

American Airlines Enhancing Cleaning Procedure

In its continued efforts of prioritizing the wellbeing of its customers and team members in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, American Airlines is updating and enhancing onboard cleaning procedures and will soon be offering personal protective equipment (PPE) to its customers.

Beginning in early May, American will expand the cleaning procedures already used during longer stops to every mainline flight. The cleaning will be done using a disinfectant approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In the customer areas, cleaning will include tray tables, seatbelt buckles, armrests, window shades and seatback screens. It will also include wiping the door and overhead bin handles. The team member areas will see enhanced galley cleaning, and also include cleaning of jumpseats and crew rest seats. The new enhancements add cockpit surfaces, as well.

These measures build on the new and expanded cleaning procedures that American added in early March, which included additional touchpoints in the cabin, more hand sanitizer and sanitizing wipes for crew members, and expanded fogging with an EPA-registered hospital-grade disinfectant in all public areas on aircraft. American is also expanding deeper cleanings and disinfection to all regional flights.

In May, the airline will also begin the process of distributing sanitizing wipes or gels and face masks to customers. This offering will expand to all flights as supplies and operational conditions allow. From May 1, masks will be required for flight attendants on all mainline and regional flights. In addition, the airline has added a drawer in the galley on every mainline flight containing personal protective equipment, including masks for flight attendants and pilots, and other sanitizing items.

At the airports, American has increased the frequency of cleaning the areas that come under its control. These include gate areas, ticket counters, passenger service counters, baggage service offices and team member rooms.

Air France Focusing on Essential Travel and Repatriations

Despite a sharp decline in activity and successive border closures, Air France has continued to operate a few flights. With capacity currently representing less than 5 percent of its usual operations, the airline says it is maintaining a minimum flight schedule justified by the latest customer repatriations and the need to maintain links with the French Overseas Departments and Territories. Among the destinations served are three in mainland France (Toulouse, Marseille and Nice), 15 cities in Europe and 20 countries around the world. To date, more than 270,000 people, including 155,000 French nationals, have been repatriated. These services make essential travel possible, whether for medical or family reasons. They also allow transportation of cargo, such as medical equipment or food.

Air France’s Boeing 777 aircraft, usually reserved for passenger transport, is playing a vital role in moving cargo between France and China. Cabin conversions have allowed the airline to increase its cargo capacity by 50 percent, enabling millions of masks, medical equipment and other goods to be flown to France.

Pending the precise terms of the relaxed lockdown measures by the French government, Air France is preparing to resume its operations, starting with an increase in capacity on domestic flights. The flight schedule will then be gradually enhanced for the 2020 summer season; however, business will remain highly dependent on the opening of borders and customer bookings.

British Airways Adds Extra Flights From China

British Airways is increasing the number of cargo-only flights from China to London to 21 flights a week, up from 13 last week. These flights will be used to carry up to 770 tonnes of cargo per week for the UK National Health Service (NHS), including PPE and ventilators.

From May, 14 flights each week will depart from Shanghai, and seven from Beijing carrying cargo in the hold and, where possible, in the cabin, too.

The flights are operated in partnership with the UK government and IAG Cargo. The British Embassy in China is working with the Department of Health to procure medical equipment from China and deliver it to NHS hospitals all over the UK.

JetBlue Makes Masks Mandatory

JetBlue has announced that all its customers will be required to wear a face covering during travel from May 4. The policy comes after the airline began requiring all crewmembers to wear face coverings while working.

JetBlue has modeled its policy on the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines that indicate all individuals should wear a face covering in public to help slow the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19).

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