How Airlines Are Protecting Passengers From Coronavirus

In a matter of weeks the Coronavirus has infected over 100,000 people. The respiratory-disease is disrupting industries, governments, businesses and schools while morphing social interactions in the process. One of the hardest hit industries is the airline business. Delta saw a nearly 20-percent dip in their stock value over the last month while American Airlines’ took a staggering 42-percent hit. Some domestic carriers have canceled international flights to China, South Korea and Italy, epicenters for Coronavirus transmissions.

But while passenger manifests shrink as more travelers opt to stay home, there’s still roughly 60,000 flights crossing the US daily. Because the contagion is airborne, airplanes present a unique risk to passengers, flight attendants, pilots and cleaning crews. Thankfully, airlines are modifying operations to prevent the spread of Coronavirus. Here are some of the strategies being used to protect you and employees from the deadly disease.


This may surprise, but aircrafts are rarely disinfected between flights. Most cleaning crews empty trash, vacuum and service the lavatories, but meticulously disinfecting armrests and tray tables has never been a thing. Coronavirus has changed that. Now, janitorial squads are taking extra time to ensure planes are thoroughly disinfected. That being stated, keeping anti-bacterial hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes on you while traveling is a step you can take to protect yourself.

Beverage Service

Airlines are reducing, and in some cases ceasing beverage service. One flight attendant tells us that they’ve been informed not to provide refills on things like wine and water. “Just to be extra safe, we’ve stopped giving refills because we don’t want bacteria from a passenger’s cup that might be contaminated to jump to the bottle we’re using for other guests or onto our hands if we touch their cup for any reason.”

Some airlines are asking employees to wear gloves while interacting with guests. You might benefit by bringing your own bottle of water or beverage onto the flight.


For now, cleaning crews will stop sorting recyclables, perishables and other trash to limit risk to exposure. You’ll also see flight attendants following suit.

Turned Around At The Gate

If you’re visibly sick, you may not be allowed to board your flight. And if you’re even feeling slightly under-the-weather, airlines are asking that you wear a surgical mask and gloves while flying. As we’ve previously reported, masks shouldn’t be worn by healthy travelers. They’re intended for use by the infected to prevent them from spreading the disease.


Alaska, United, Delta, American, Spirit, Frontier and others airlines are waiving flight change or cancellation fees for travel through March and in some cases, all the way through June. Alaska Airlines is calling their June extension policy the “peace-of-mind” waiver.

Several carriers are halting flights to destinations that pose significant risk for infection. Hawaiian Airlines has suspended service between Honolulu and Incheon, South Korea. American Airlines has temporarily axed flights from US cities to Milan, Italy. Lufthansa has canceled flights to China, and reduced trips to Hong Kong. And United is offering full refunds for all travel to China as well.

And that’s just on the planes. You can read about things YOU can do to protect yourself while not on them by clicking here.

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Eric has revolved in and out of passport controls for over 20 years. From his first archaeological field school in Belize to rural villages in Ethiopia and Buddhist temples in Laos, Eric has come smile to smile with all walks of life. A writer, photographer and entrepreneur, the LA native believes the power of connectivity and community is enriched through travel.

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