COVID continues to sweep across the country, but COVID fatigue has set in and after Aviation Public Health Initiative’s recent research revealed that the risk of transmitting and receiving COVID-19 on an aircraft is actually very low, travelers are ready to get back in the friendly skies.
But flying at 30,000 feet looks different than it ever has before. Airlines are taking individual precautious to mitigate the risk of spreading COVID within flights, but per usual, not all airlines operate the same. While every airline is requiring staff and passengers to wear masks, the in-flight experience will vary depending on which airline you fly. If you want to know what you’re stepping into before you book that ticket, here’s what an in-flight experience looks like on some of the most popular airlines.
Middle seats are blocked and flight capacity is limited on all Alaska Airline flights through January 6, 2021. Alaska is offering sanitary wipes on board but is being more restrictive with its food and beverage service than other airlines. For flights under 220 miles, no food or beverage service is being offered. If you’re flying between 220-350 miles, you’ll receive bottled water. Once you get more than 350 miles, more options become available but are still limited.
Before you get on the flight, Allegiant will provide you with a complimentary health and safety kit that includes a face mask and two sanitizing wipes. Additional wipes are available in-flight by request. The airline is limiting their in-flight service to once per flight and all food and beverage items are packaged and factory sealed when handed to you. Like with most flights, in-flight magazines and other materials that are usually found in the backseat pocket have been removed.
American Airlines policies will change depending on the length of your flight. If you’re flying less than 900 miles, food and beverages are provided by request only and alcohol is only offered to first class passengers.
Flying more than 4.5 hours will get you a snack and bottled water but all other services must be made by request. You’re also unable to purchase snacks. If you’re sitting first class, you’ll get similar complimentary snacks with the addition of the ability to request alcohol, but no pre-departure beverages are being served. If your flight comes with a meal, they’re being served by tray, not in courses.
Delta Airlines is blocking middle seats for all passengers including First Class, Main Cabin, Delta Comfort+ and Delta Premium Select. For planes that only contain two seats, select aisle seats are being blocked to allow for safer space for passengers. For domestic flights, beverage service has been limited to 8.5 ounce bottled waters only. However, if you’re flying more than 500 miles and are seated in Delta Comfort+ or First Class, you may still receive wine and beer service.
Southwest Airlines is requiring that all passengers wear a mask at all times on the plane unless you’re eating or drinking. They’re also leaving the middle seat open on all flights, meaning even at capacity a flight will never be full. I recently took four different Southwest flights and on one, bandanas were not considered an acceptable form of a mask. No other flights had this restriction.
Once you’re on the plane, the only beverage service being offered to passengers is water. Don’t worry, they still provide you with peanuts and pretzels or else it truly wouldn’t be the Southwest experience.
Unlike Southwest, United is filling their middle seats, but they will hand you a sanitary wipe as you walk onto the plane. They’ve consolidated their beverage and snack service into a small goody bag that includes a mini water bottle, two snacks, and another sanitary wipe.
Despite changes to in-flight services, every airline is taking necessary precautions and actions to keep their planes sanitized. Crews are cleaning surfaces between every flight and fresh air is being circulated throughout the flight. Masks are required at all times unless you’re eating or drinking.
While the Center for Disease Control is still recommending that you stay at home versus hopping on a plane, if you do find yourself traveling you can help reduce the risk of spreading or contracting COVID by wearing a proper face mask, limiting your interaction with surfaces and other people, washing your hands frequently, and avoid touching your face, mouth, eyes, and nose.
In order to make your flight a more enjoyable experience, I recommend packing your own sanitizer, medical wipes, and getting on the plane with sufficient snacks and water. The safer we can keep in-flight experiences, the sooner we can all get back to seeing the world. Happy flying!