Note that face masks that include an exhaust valve are not permitted. While a few airlines are still blocking seats from being booked to allow for extra space, they might not be doing so for long. Hawaiian is blocking the sale of middle seats on certain aircraft through Dec. 15, 2020. Starting Dec. 1, budget carrier Southwest will join competitors United and American Airlines in returning to filling flights as normal. After a United Airlines spokesperson criticized the safety policy of blocking middle seats on flights, Delta reiterated its stance. This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. *Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. PHOTO: United Airlines Boeing 787 Dreamliner at LAX. Editorial Note: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. [What to know about getting tested for the coronavirus to travel]. Masks with exhaust valves are not allowed, and those who refuse to wear an approved mask or face covering may be banned from flying the airline. 2X points on dining at restaurants including eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out and travel & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases. And some airlines recently ended the practice. Detours with locals.Travel tips you can trust. The airline is also requiring customers to complete a health acknowledgement prior to boarding. The airline said the practice “adds confidence and reassurance” for travel during the pandemic. Southwest began limiting the number of seats sold on its flights in May and continued the practice through the Thanksgiving travel rush. Through Jan. 6, 2021, Alaska is blocking middle seats. Flights with rapid testing are being dubbed ‘covid-free.’ Here’s why that is a myth. If you’re considering flying (or need to) any time soon, the airline you choose will almost certainly have a big impact on the social distancing involved in your flight. Outside of increased cleaning protocols, waived flight change fees and other basic protocols that all airlines are utilizing, it looks like you’re in for a full flight. These policies will all kick in as of late April, and as of now will be valid through May 31, 2020, though presumably have the potential to be extended based on how the situation unfolds. American says it is thoroughly cleaning aircraft between flights, including using an EPA-approved disinfectant to clean common customer touchpoints (armrests, seat belts, tray tables, etc. Southwest spends at least six hours cleaning all aircraft overnight, and the carrier says it is using a disinfectant to clean tray tables and lavatories before every flight. See, firm requirements from the federal government, see this post for a closer look at the airline’s current procedures, Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express, Blocking seats to encourage social distancing (dates vary by airline; see below for your carrier), Compulsory face coverings for passengers and/or crew, Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. Note that the airline does not guarantee a blocked seat, however, as the carrier may choose to use those seats to accommodate passengers on previously canceled flights. and applying a disinfectant fogging before every flight. A more thorough disinfectant cleaning will take place when time allows between flights. United Airlines pledged to block the middle seat on flights through May 30. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel. View our latest valuations here. The airline is still leaving seats open as first-come, first-served based on boarding group. Delta is thoroughly cleaning common touchpoints (armrests, seat belts, overhead controls, etc.) Southwest customers may still choose their own seats… Frontier is cleaning aircraft before every flight, focusing on passenger seating, cabin walls, overhead bins, galleys and lavatories. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. As part of the road to its recovery, the airline is opting against blocking middle seats and is instead offering free flight changes for passengers when more than 70% of seats are booked. Middle seats American Airlines no longer blocks off the middle seat and allows planes to fly completely full. Customers who refuse to wear a mask or face covering may be banned from flying the airline. Sun Country is requiring that all passengers and crew members wear face coverings. Or purchase a subscription for unlimited access to real news you can count on. For months, as most Americans limited trips outside their homes, airline passenger loads plummeted to levels most of us could have never imagined. -limit the number of customers on board all aircraft – with or without middle seats.-limit the First Class cabin to half capacity to further ensure more space between customers.-block one aisle of seats on aircraft without middle seats. When the pandemic came to the United States at the beginning of 2020, airlines … The Points Guy will not sell your email. JetBlue Sun Country has increased the frequency at which it cleans high-touch areas, including arm rests, tray tables and lavatories. Almost all U.S. carriers now require passengers to cover their faces onboard, and Alaska, Delta and Southwest each are capping ticket sales, effectively blocking middle seats, as detailed in my guide outlining distancing-related airline policies. If you refuse to follow United's face covering policy while in the airport or on board a United flight, you will be refused transport and could also lose your travel privileges on United for at least the time that United’s mandatory face covering policy is in effect. Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater. Many of the credit card offers that appear on the website are from credit card companies from which ThePointsGuy.com receives compensation. Delta will continue to block all middle seats through at least Mar. But United’s Earnest told CNN (via Inc.) that “keeping the seat next to you open is not going to make a material difference.” United was the first big U.S. carrier to give up on blocking middle seats. Shannon McMahon is a reporter covering travel for By The Way, The Washington Post's travel destination. The new policy, which means middle seats will once again be filled on flights with strong demand, takes effect Dec. 1, after Thanksgiving but ahead of … Masks are available upon request at ticket counters, gates and onboard flights. Delta said this month that the extension was made because its customers still want extra space for in-flight safety. The following airlines are no longer blocking middle seats, but may alert travelers during check-in if their flight is near capacity or full: Allegiant, American, Frontier, Spirit, Sun Country and United. American has also increased the frequency of cleaning areas it controls throughout the airport, including ticket counters, team member rooms and gates. (photo via Jetlinerimages/iStock Unreleased) Less than a week after announcing it would end its policy on blocking middle seats and return to flying at capacity, United Airlines defended its decision today. “This practice of effectively keeping middle seats open bridged us from the early days of the pandemic, when we had little knowledge about the behavior of the virus, to now,” Southwest chief executive Gary Kelly said in an October statement announcing the change. How do travel bubbles work? … The airline has reduced inflight service to limit onboard interaction, so customers are encouraged to bring their own food and drinks onboard. © 2021 THE POINTS GUY, LLC. Hawaiian says it is thoroughly disinfecting all planes after each transpacific flight with hospital-grade disinfectants, focusing on common touch areas. United is requiring that all employees and passengers cover their faces in the airport and while onboard an aircraft. While passengers may see almost entirely unreserved seat maps at booking — expecting to find those conditions onboard — airlines are canceling and consolidating flights. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. 4 questions, answered. United will make masks available to passengers upon request. The credit card offers that appear on the website are from credit card companies from which ThePointsGuy.com receives compensation. Delta is requiring that all employees and contractors wear masks, and passengers are required to wear face coverings as well, at all Delta areas in the airport and onboard all flights. JetBlue will no longer allow passengers to wear masks with exhaust valves, and if you forget your face covering at home, the airline will provide one at the gate. You can still pick your seat and sit together, however. Many travelers, myself included, might start making booking decisions based on airline polices around seat restrictions and face masks for crew and passengers. Customers traveling together are welcome to sit together, including in … The airline says currently 85% of its flights are less than half full. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. Up until now, in a move adopted by most U.S. airlines, American had blocked about half of its economy-class middle seats, meaning that sales for each flight had been limited to … American and United adopted policies of keeping the middle seats vacant last spring but rescinded that policy over the last couple of months as demand for air travel has gradually increased. Some airlines will not fill the middle seat during this pandemic, though others are now booking all seats. "For regularly scheduled flights that are expected to be fairly full, we’ll let you change your flight with no change fee or receive a travel credit for your trip. Other measures. This site does not include all credit card companies or all available credit card offers. Middle seats: United will not promise to keep middle seats empty. JetBlue is not blocking middle seats, but is trying to give passengers some space. Middle seats will remain open until Sept. 30th. More recently, however, many U.S. states have eased restrictions, and an increasing number of travelers are taking to the skies once again. Face masks and sanitizing wipes are available upon request. If a passenger cannot accept the health acknowledgment, they’ll be issued a credit for a future Frontier flight. Now, one of those airlines is rolling back the policy. United Airlines is joining the list of airlines introducing policies to encourage social distancing, including blocking seats. United is selling all flights to capacity. “As always, Southwest customers may choose their own seats,” Southwest says on its website about the boarding process. Additionally, as demand begins to pick up, carriers may continue to feel financial pressure to adjust seat-blocking policies — with slim margins, it’s hard for a flight to turn a profit if you aren’t allowing travelers to purchase a third of the seats. American does not permit masks with valves or vents, and customers who refuse to wear a mask or face covering may be banned from flying the airline. And, as always, individuals who don’t feel comfortable traveling right now should take advantage of their airline’s flexible change or cancellation policy to cancel or postpone their trip. Southwest is maintaining its open seating policy, but is not limiting the number of seats sold. As with many other carriers, vented masks are not permitted. American Airlines is no longer blocking seats, and all aircraft may be sold to capacity. MileagePlus members. Get 25% more value when you redeem for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. All inter-island aircraft are also cleaned after every flight into Honolulu (HNL) and are disinfected each night. Driving may seem like a safer alternative, but with food and fuel stops, bathroom visits and overnight stays on longer car journeys, avoiding air travel entirely isn’t always the logical pick. All Allegiant customers, flight attendants and airport employees are required to wear face coverings. Featured photo by Zach Honig/The Points Guy. Sun Country is not offering any service onboard, including complimentary beverages and buy-on-board products, to minimize interactions between passengers and crew. Yes, you can get a refund if you bought Southwest tickets before Oct. 23 for flights in December and beyond. This equates to blocked middle seats, although they are maintaining their open seating policy. Southwest Airlines. Finally, the airline is requiring passengers to undergo a temperature check at boarding — customers with temperatures at or above 100.4 degrees will be denied boarding. They’re blocking middle seats on larger aircraft and certain aisle seats on smaller ones, at least through Sept. 8th. The airline is so far the only U.S. airline to commit to blocking middle seats through the first quarter of 2021. The airline is also applying an antimicrobial solution every seven days. Airlines and medical experts spar over whether or not the middle seat should be blocked. The airline was previously limiting flight capacity to 70 percent of normal levels “to provide additional space between individuals who are not traveling together.”. American requires masks for all employees and passengers are required to wear masks as well, from the time they enter their departure airport to the time they leave the airport upon arrival. using a high-grade EPA disinfectant before every flight. TPG had an opportunity to witness an aircraft cleaning — see this post for a closer look at the airline’s current procedures. United Airlines Won’t Block Middle Seats, Here’s How To Protect Yourself From COVID-19 by Gary Leff on May 12, 2020 Delta and American Airlines are limiting the number of seats they’ll sell on each flight, to give customers confidence they can travel without having another passenger squeezed up next to them in a middle seat. Chan School of Public Health and the Department of Defense have validated that the risk of viral transmission on board a commercial aircraft is extremely low.”. ), along with cockpits, galleys and other crew areas. United Airlines is one airline company that plans to sell middle seats on its fight amid the coronavirus pandemic and calls for social distancing. I would like to subscribe to The Points Guy newsletters and special email promotions. Here are 6 things to know about Southwest Airlines middle seat policy change 1. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. Gate agents are making frequent announcements to encourage social distancing, and the airline has added signage to encourage the practice in lines, in the gate area and onboard aircraft. Detours with locals. The airline is so far the only U.S. airline to commit to blocking middle seats through the first quarter of 2021. https://www.washingtonpost.com/resizer/nxfjYY5X1OmODzMvrNNCDc2w8qo=/480x0/www.washingtonpost.com/wp-stat/newsletter/btw-promo.jpg, A man’s scheme to get free Spirit flights landed him a jail sentence. The company said it will limit capacity on flights, though. Additionally, testing and/or a 14-day quarantine may be required for all passengers traveling to Hawaii, as outlined in this detailed guide. The airline is boarding economy passengers from back to front. The airline has also installed clear shields at counters, added “distance dots” to promote distancing and shifted to an “on-demand” snack service. Frontier is boarding passengers boarding from the rear of the aircraft to the front, to avoid unnecessary contact. Delta is boarding flights from the rear of the aircraft to the front, to minimize opportunities for customers to come into contact onboard. JetBlue says it is sanitizing surfaces throughout airport terminals more frequently and implementing other measures to limit contact, such as encouraging customers to scan their own boarding passes. Spirit Airlines. CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 2X points on all travel and dining, points transferrable to over a dozen travel partners. Sun Country is selling all flights to capacity. The airline is boarding economy passengers from back to front. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, some airlines blocked selling middle seats to allow passengers to social distance while flying. She's lived in the south of Spain, eaten her way around Sri Lanka, hiked Jordan's Petra Basin, and spelunked in the remote Caribbean. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page. American and United adopted policies of keeping the middle seats vacant last spring but rescinded that policy over the last couple of months as demand for air travel has gradually increased. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Alaska Airlines also intends to extend the seat block policy until after the Christmas period. If a flight exceeds 65% capacity, passengers can be notified about possible reaccomodation options. Some of the procedures we’re seeing include: While it’s important to check with your airline as things can change by the day, here’s what you can expect when traveling on each U.S. carrier: Let’s break the policies down in more detail below, giving you an idea of what to expect throughout your journey. However, without firm requirements from the federal government, policies differ significantly from one carrier to the next, creating a lot of confusion among travelers. All employees are required to wear face masks and all passengers age two and above are required to wear face coverings as well, at all Frontier areas within the airport and onboard all flights. [New Zealand covid-19 flight outbreak linked to passenger who tested negative], Through Jan. 6, 2021, Alaska Airlines says it is “limiting the number of guests on our flights and blocking seats.” Gate agents may reassign groups or families to be seated together, although the airline notes that “there can be occasions where extra space cannot be guaranteed due to unforeseen changes such as re-accommodating guests from a previously canceled flight.”, After Dec. 15, Hawaiian Airlines says it will no longer limit capacity to prevent booking middle seats. United Airlines. For travel after that date, however, the airline quietly updated its seating policy to remove that middle-seat guarantee, and in November the airline reversed its seat-blocking policy. U.S. airlines have been continuously updating their social distancing policies and rolling out requirements aimed at avoiding the spread of germs in-flight. Passengers will board from the rear of the aircraft to the front. During boarding, the airline will provide passengers with health and safety kits, which include face masks, gloves and hand wipes. Traditionally, fall is a good time to look for … Alaska Airlines will have masks available for passengers who forget theirs at home. People like empty middle seats in the best of times, but only four airlines currently offer flights without occupied middle seats. AA encourages customers to bring their own face coverings, though a limited supply of masks may be available at the gate. All seats are available to purchase on Allegiant flights. Low fares may not be enough to lure many travelers. United is selling flights to capacity. JetBlue is limiting onboard capacity through Jan. 7, 2021, but the airline is no longer guaranteeing that passengers won’t be seated next to a stranger. Policies are evolving constantly, so we recommend checking with your airline for the latest requirements. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). Spirit is offering self bag-drop stations at select airports, minimizing interactions with employees. Delivered every Thursday. United Airlines recently announced that it was making some middle seats unavailable for passengers to select. Aboard Amtrak’s Crescent, surprising comfort and welcome seclusion on a slow train to Mississippi, Paddling through a painterly landscape in New York’s Adirondack Park. The only U.S. airline of the Big Three that is still committed to distancing seat assignments on flights, Delta will continue to block seats through March 30. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. The airline said on an earnings call that it will notify passengers two days before travel if their flight is near full, and will give passengers the option to be rebooked onto another flight free if one is available. Gate agents will also board fewer passengers at a time, in an effort to avoid crowding in the jet bridge, and will encourage passengers to scan their own boarding passes. Until Oct. 15, JetBlue was blocking all middle seats for purchase on its larger aircraft, and most aisle seats were “blocked for purchase" on smaller aircraft. “Today, aligned with science-based findings from trusted medical and aviation organizations, we will resume selling all available seats for travel beginning December 1, 2020.”. Delta is also limiting first-class cabins to half-capacity, and it is “blocking one aisle of seats on aircraft without middle seats.” For bookings of three or more people, middle seats will appear as available in an effort to allow families to select seats together on the seat map. Seating policy the extension was made because its customers still want extra space for in-flight safety by... 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