March 10, 2020

How The Airlines Are Responding To Coronavirus

Picture of Jessica Freeman
Jessica Freeman

The Airlines Response to Coronavirus

While many aspects of the travel industry have been greatly impacted the past few months because of Coronavirus, The World Health Organization (WHO) states that there should be no travel restrictions as the risk of being infected is low in many countries. Many airlines have taken increased precautionary steps to ensure they are keeping their customers safe while traveling. Below you will find important information on how Delta Air Lines, American Airlines, and United Airlines are handling their aircraft, in-flight services, and change fees. To learn more about what we know, click here.

Delta-3Delta Air Lines

Delta Air Lines’ first priority is the safety of their customers and their employees. They have a strong, ongoing relationship with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization, the world's foremost experts on communicable diseases, to make sure everything Delta does meets or exceeds their guidelines. Below are some steps Delta has taken to ensure they are doing what they can to keep travelers safe.

Aircraft cleaning:

Delta has taken proactive and voluntary steps to help customers have a healthy flying experience. This includes:

  • A high-grade, EPA registered disinfectant used on all flights
  • A new fogging process often used by the food industry
  • State-of-the-art air circulation systems
  • More hand sanitizer, more gloves for flight attendants
  • And additional sanitation procedures for inbound catering equipment at international gateways

What you can do to stay healthy while flying:

There are many actions health officials recommend for travelers to prevent the spread of COVID-19, and to stay healthy while flying. These include washing your hands often, staying home when you’re sick, avoiding touching your eyes, nose and mouth and more.

Flexibility - Changes to flight schedules, waivers, and more:

Delta has waived many change fees and is working with customers to adjust travel plans, using relationships with other airlines when needed. Delta is also adjusting their schedule in response to State Department and CDC guidance while listening to where customers tell them they want to fly.

View current travel waivers, as well as information on waived change fees here.

AAAmerican Airlines

American Airlines is in close contact with U.S. and international authorities, as well as public health officials, and continues to coordinate with them on all required health and safety related measures regarding COVID-19, or Coronavirus. The airline is monitoring the situation closely and will make any updates as needed. Here’s what American is doing to ensure your safe journey with them:

The aircraft:

  • AA has a strong, structured cleaning regimen and their aircraft are cleaned each day at key touchpoints on their journeys with an EPA-approved disinfectant. 
  • International flights and aircraft with additional time on the ground receive a detailed 30-point cleaning package each day.
  • AA is enhancing cleaning procedures on international flights and aircraft that remain overnight at an airport. This move, which will touch the majority of their aircraft each day, includes a more thorough cleaning of all hard surfaces, including tray tables and armrests. 
  • Most of the airline aircraft are equipped with High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters that provide a complete air change approximately 15 to 30 times per hour, or once every two to four minutes. A HEPA filter's complete air change is better than most other forms of transportation and office buildings’ and similar to the standard for hospitals.
  • AA is provisioning hand sanitizer and sanitizing wipes for crew members on all international flights across the Pacific Ocean and to Italy - They are working to expand this measure to all flights in the near future.

In-flight dining and beverages:

  • All catering equipment on key international flights is undergoing additional sanitation and disinfection procedures:
    • All tableware, dishes, cutlery and glassware are being sanitized/disinfected before washing.
    • All unused inbound supplies are being discarded.
    • Inbound linen and headphones are being sanitized separately. 
    • All galley equipment, including carts and carriers, are being sanitized separately.
  • On key international flights, mid-cabin bar service will be adjusted and self-serve snack and fruit baskets will be removed. Flight attendants will provide food and beverage items upon request.

American Airlines change fee updates:

American has extended its offer to waive change fees for customers who purchased tickets prior to March 1 for travel through April 30. The offer is available for any of American’s fares and customers have until December 31 to rebook travel for future flights. Additional updates on existing travel alerts can be found here.

UnitedUnited Airlines

The teams at United are in daily contact with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the World Health Organization (WHO), federal agencies and other global health organizations to share the most up-to-the-minute information. What's more, United has a team of in-house professionals, including an industrial hygienist who reviews and tests cleaning products and a corporate medical team who are working around the clock. Below are steps United is taking to assist travelers:

Aircraft cleaning:

  • All aircraft are cleaned at a variety of touchpoints throughout the day, the procedure including a thorough wipe-down of all hard surfaces touched by customers and employees — including lavatories, galleys, tray tables, window shades and armrests.
  • United uses an effective, high-grade disinfectant and multi-purpose cleaner.
  • When the airline is advised by the CDC of an employee or customer who has traveled onboard and who is potentially exhibiting Coronavirus symptoms, that aircraft is taken out of service and sent through a full decontamination process that includes our standard cleaning procedures plus washing ceilings and overhead bins and scrubbing the interior.
  • United aircraft are equipped with state-of-the-art circulation systems, similar to those found in hospitals, which use a high-efficiency (HEPA) filter to circulate the air and removes up to 99.7% of airborne particles.
  • Soon, United will start using an electrostatic fogger to disinfect the air and surfaces within the cabin on all international arrivals into their U.S. Hubs, Honolulu and Guam.


  • The flight crew has stopped refilling used cups and glasses in all cabins. If a customer requests a refill, flight attendants will provide a new cup or glass.
  • Customers may now see flight attendants wearing gloves during food and beverage service as well as during pickup, in all cabins.
  • United flight attendants will hand all beverages directly to the customer, instead of allowing the customer to take their own from the tray.
  • All tableware, dishes, cutlery, carts and glassware are washed and sanitized.

Change fee waiver:

  • If you're scheduled to travel March 10 – April 30, 2020 and would like to change your plans, there is no fee to do so, regardless of when you purchased your ticket or where you're traveling. This is in addition to United's previous waiver, which waives all change fees – domestic and international – for tickets purchased March 3 – March 31, 2020.
  • For more information click here.

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