by Donald Wood
Last updated: 12:25 AM ET, Sat August 8, 2020
As the aviation industry continues to feel the devastation of the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, airlines around the United States continue to focus on the health and safety standards of travelers, while others are starting to scale back on the efforts.
Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian has been at the forefront of how carriers handle the viral pandemic, with the company focused heavily on employee testing, requiring face masks, blocking middle seats and a continued dedication to cleanliness.
The face mask debate has raged in the world of politics, but not in the aviation industry, as the majority of airlines in the U.S. have now instituted 'no mask, no travel, no exceptions' policies, including Alaska, American, JetBlue, Southwest and Spirit.
Children under the age of two are not expected to wear facial coverings.
JetBlue also recently extended its policy for social distancing for flights by keeping the middle seats on all of its planes empty through at least October 15 and expanded its Go Back and Forth with Confidence initiative, which gives passengers added flexibility by waiving change and cancellation fees for new bookings.
American has stepped up its use of technology to deal with the coronavirus outbreak, with the addition of new touchless check-in experience allowing travelers to reach their gate without having to make contact with the kiosk screen. The airline also launched a new in-flight Wi-Fi portal to provide a smoother sign-on process.
In addition, Alaska Airlines revealed it had permanently canceled in-flight entertainment tablet rentals onboard its flights due to concerns about the cleanliness of the devices.
To help answer common questions from travelers, United launched a new chat function allowing customers to text their cleaning and safety concerns directly to the airline for a quick, contactless response.
While most airlines have added elements to the coronavirus-related health protocols, Southwest has reduced the amount of cleaning it had previously mandated since the start of the outbreak.
The airline continues to block middle seats, but employees are now instructed to only clean tray tables and lavatories between flights, rather than all surfaces. Enhanced cleaning will occur each night and the deep cleaning electrostatic spray will be used once a month.
Southwest said tray tables and lavatories are the two areas most prone to carrying coronavirus.
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