Changes to checking in
Using the self-service kiosks means touching screens multiple times, so expect to get reminders from your airline that you can check in over the phone. And rather than handing over your phone and your identification to an agent at baggage drop or at the gate, you may be asked to show it instead.
Self check-in kiosks will be getting multiple wipe downs a day, but you might want to consider carrying your own hand sanitizer and wipes for the journey.
No fingerprint scans at the lounge
Airport lounges, those sanctuaries that carriers set up for frequent fliers or first class passengers and airline credit card holders, see a high volume of travelers stopping by before a flight to grab a free drink or snack, and some have started using fingertip scans to admit members. Both Alaska and Delta, though, have suspended the use of fingertip entry and are asking passengers to show their boarding pass and identification to attendants in order to gain admission, rather than handing them over.
And change is probably coming to the buffet as well. Lounges will be cleaned more frequently, the common serving utensils will be changed more frequently and bartenders will no longer refill your glass. They will give you a new one instead.
Security won’t ease up
The Transportation Safety Agency hasn’t made any adjustments to its screening procedures. The most important change a passenger should make here is to place their wallet, keys, phone and other objects from their pockets inside their carry-on bag, rather than directly in the plastic bins that go through the scanner.
T.S.A. operating procedures require personnel to wear nitrile gloves when conducting screening duties with passengers. Travelers who need to be patted down or have their carry-on bag searched can ask the T.S.A. officer to change gloves before they perform that task.
Passengers who use the Clear security stations, which allow them to go to the front of the T.S.A. line, can choose to either place two fingers on a glass fingerprint scanner or look into an iris scanner. In light of the virus, Clear employees are defaulting to the iris option. For passengers who still prefer the fingertip scan, staff will provide hand sanitizer and disinfect the scanner after each use.
Flight attendants in gloves; no more warm towels in first class
The Association of Flight Attendants — the union representing nearly 50,000 flight attendants at 20 airlines — has been asking the government and the airlines to implement a list of health and safety changes to help stop the spread of Covid-19.
Some of these changes are beginning to be made by airlines.
On some airlines, including United, flight attendants may be wearing gloves in the cabin. They also will no longer refill drinks — you’ll get a new glass to minimize possible points of contact. Alaska Airlines is encouraging passengers to fill up water bottles in the gate area before boarding, so cups won’t be needed at all; Alaska is also ending its warm towel service in first class, and recycling will be suspended so flight attendants can avoid touching passenger-handled items. The airline is encouraging passengers to wipe down tray tables and armrests with their own disinfectant wipes.
Planes will also undergo enhanced cleaning, according to multiple airlines. Delta Air Lines has begun fogging the interiors of some airplanes that are arriving from international destinations with disinfectant; United said it will also begin fogging planes arriving into its hubs from international destinations. The fogging, with tray tables lowered and overhead bins and lavatory doors open, is performed after an initial cleaning. Delta said it is prioritizing arrivals from the hardest hit countries and is securing additional machines so it can treat more planes.
Some international airlines are taking further precautions: Singapore International Airlines, for instance, now requires flight crew to wear masks onboard.
Social distancing for those arriving from outside the United States
The C.D.C. has offices and quarantine stations at 20 United States airports. As of March 12, the C.D.C. says that those who have been in Level 3 countries, China, Iran, South Korea and now most of Europe, in the previous two weeks but exhibit no symptoms, need to stay home for 14 days after returning from travel, monitor their health, and practice social distancing.
Travelers coming in from all other countries are asked to monitor their health and limit interactions with others for 14 days after returning from travel.
Anyone with symptoms should call ahead before seeking medical care.
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