Flying during coronavirus: how airlines change their flight rules


After almost stopping due to the coronavirus epidemic, the airline industry is turning its collective attention to what it will take to get passengers flying again. The first step: securing pilots in the confined space of an aircraft with new regulations on board.

In addition to increasing disinfection procedures, airlines around the world are changing their boarding protocols, giving more space to passengers on board aircraft, and have begun to require passengers and flight crew to wear personal protective equipment, such as face masks and gloves.

Face masks in particular have been widely approved in the industry in recent weeks. The Flight Attendant Association-CWA, which represents 50,000 flight attendants, called on the Department of Transportation and Health and Human Services to make masks a requirement for all air passengers nationwide. Likewise, the International Air Transport Association and the US Travel Association both have published guidelines for passengers and crew to wear masks, as well as other changes to check-in and boarding procedures to allow for social distancing during the trip.

Here are the latest policies from different airlines.

Air Canada

Air Canada has required face masks or blankets for all passengers since April 20 following an order from the Minister of Transport Canada. Blankets should be worn over the mouth and nose during check-in, during boarding and during the flight. On the aircraft, the masks can be removed for eating and drinking, if emergency oxygen is deployed or if flight attendants believe that an adequate physical distance can be maintained in flight. Customers must bring their own face covers, but they “don’t need to be medical masks – any face cover that includes a scarf or similar is acceptable,” the airline said. politics says.

Air Canada has also adjusted its boarding process to minimize potential contact between passengers by allowing fewer people to board at the same time, and its agents at the door reinstalling flyers to maintain social distance.

Air France

The masks will be mandatory for all Air France passengers from May 11. The airline says it will contact all customers on upcoming flights by email or SMS to remind them to have one or more face covers for their trip. All crew members must also wear masks. When possible, Air France also organizes leaflets. “On most flights, the current low occupancy rates allow customers to be separated as needed,” the airline said.

American airlines

As of May 11, all passengers on all flights must wear a face covering. (Flight attendants have been required to wear masks since May 1.) As supplies and operational conditions permit, the airline will distribute face masks and disinfectant wipes to all customers. “Very young passengers and those whose conditions prevent them from wearing a face cover will be exempt from the requirement,” said American. politics says.

Carrier door officers reassign seats to create more space between leaflets (family groups can be placed together, however). According to American, until May 31, “it will not allocate 50% of the intermediate seats in the main cabin or seats near the flight attendant booster seats on each flight, and will only use these medium seats when it will be necessary ”.


On May 4, Delta began requiring all passengers to wear face masks at all points on their journey. Masks are ‘mandatory from the check-in hall and Delta contact points, including Delta Sky clubs, boarding areas, jet bridges and on board the aircraft for the duration of the flight, except during meal service, “as per airline policy. Delta employees will undergo temperature checks and will also be required to wear masks when they are within six feet of the others. Passengers will be reminded of the new rules by email and through the Delta app. “We continue to encourage customers to bring their own facial coverage when traveling with us, supplies will be available for customers who need it.” (People unable to keep a face covering in place, including children, are exempt from the new regulations.)

Delta also reduces the total number of passengers on each flight and blocks the intermediate seats in the Economy, Comfort Plus and Premium Select cabins. The airline also changed its boarding process to load the line-by-line aircraft from back to front. (However, Delta One, First Class and Diamond Medallion members can board at any time.)


All passengers are required to wear masks on board Emirates flights since April. The airline has also recently introduced new protective equipment guidelines for its cabin crew, which include a disposable gown over their uniforms, a mask, goggles and gloves. At Dubai International Airport, the Emirates home port, all customers and employees must wear masks and gloves. For some flights, the airline has partnered with the Dubai Health Authority to conduct rapid-result blood tests for the coronavirus before boarding.

In addition, Emirates places vacant seats between individuals or family groups on board its aircraft. In-flight food and beverage service has been reduced to personal bento boxes to reduce contact between crew and passengers. For more details, visit the airline’s social distancing page.


the first US airline to mandate that all passengers wear masks, JetBlue announced new rules on April 27 which went into effect on May 4. The policy states that airmen must wear a face cover at all stages of the journey, including check-in, boarding, flight, disembarkation and throughout the airport. The only airmen exempt from the new rules, the airline statement said, will be small children who “are unable to maintain a face covering.” Masks are also mandatory for crew members. The airline has also limited the number of seats available for sale “on most flights”, allowing additional space between passengers who are not traveling together.


The Lufthansa Group has started to require passengers to bring their own face covers on flights since May 4. “A reusable cloth mask is recommended, but all other types of coverings, such as disposable masks or scarves, are also good alternatives,” said a statement from the airline group, which includes Lufthansa, Swiss and Austrian Airlines. , as well as the low-cost airline Eurowings. Carrier flight attendants must also wear masks until at least August 31.

The airlines of the Lufthansa group also block the intermediate seat in economy plus cabins. The group maintains that this practice “will no longer remain a necessity, because the facial cover provides the necessary protection”, but will continue to distribute the leaflets as far as possible while the low load factors allow it.

South West

Since May 3, Southwest has required employees in contact with customers to wear face masks. This new rule will be extended to passengers on May 11. They will have to wear their own face cover to board a flight with the airline. If a passenger forgets a mask, the airline will provide one. In addition, disinfectant wipes will be available on request for passengers on each flight.

The airline has no plans to change its well-known open seating policy, but will temporarily reduce the number of passengers on each flight. He is also adjusting his famous alphanumeric boarding process: flyers will always board sequentially, but in small groups of 10 at a time. Flight attendants will also guide passengers on how to disembark while maintaining social distance. The airline has completely suspended the beverage and snack service until further notice.


Effective May 4, all passengers must wear a face cover on United flights. “We encourage customers to bring their own face covers, but our customer service agents can provide them if you do not have them when you board our aircraft,” according to airline rules. “Some clients, such as those with a health condition that prevents them from wearing a face cover, those who cannot put on or take off a face cover themselves and small children, will not be required to do so. carry one on board. “

Until the end of May at least, United limits the selection of seats in all cabins. Passengers will not be able to select the middle or side-by-side seats, and the seats will alternate to maintain a safe distance between the aisles. The airline also mainly opted for prepackaged snacks and on-board sealed drink options.

We report on the daily impact of COVID-19 on travel. Find all of our coronavirus coverage and travel resources here.


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