Even in the age of Covid-19 there are employees, managers and business owners who must use air travel for work-related reasons.  There are also those who are compelled to travel for personal reasons such as family illness, funerals and other reasons.  Last there are those for whom choosing air travel is totally discretionary.  Irrespective of the reason for getting on an airplane, everyone who does so or is considering it is probably interested in the measures airlines are taking to make travelling as safe as possible.

Yesterday’s post reviewed some general airline reposes to the Covid-19 pandemic and included a short video outlining the efforts that Delta Air Lines is taking.  This post presents a video pertaining to the Covid-19 safety measures that United Airlines  is taking.

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Precautionary measures covered in the video include:

  • requiring the use of face masks,
  • boarding aircraft from the back to the front,
  • distributing sanitizing wipes at boarding,
  • when flights are 70% full or more (no blocking of seats), United sends an email offering passengers the  option to change flights without charge,
  • reducing or eliminating cabin service,
  • partnering with Clorox to develop proper cleaning procedures, and
  • partnering with Cleveland Clinic to update these measures, if appropriate, to adapt to new information on Covid-19.

Final Thoughts

The biggest problem with United’s response is not limiting onboard capacity.  Offering changes without penalty 24 hours in advance is helpful but inadequate.  Passengers choose flights in part because of departure and arrival times.  Changing at the last minute disrupts plans especially if there is a connecting flight.  Furthermore, even if there are other flights that meet departure or arrival needs there is no guarantee they will be less full.

On the other hand, some might find the change policy useful to game the system.  Since flights at different times on the same day often have very different prices, one could choose the least expensive flight of the day in hopes that it will be or already is more than 70% full and then change to a more more expensive flight at a more preferable time on the same day.

One measure that few airlines or airports in the west have adopted is using temperature screens at check in or prior to boarding.  This an inexpensive way of preventing passengers who are actually sick from getting on a plane.  Many airports in Asia routinely require that  all passengers walk through devices that detect their temperature.  That should be a relatively easy measure to employ everywhere.