How Airlines Are Changing The Flying Process

BY AARP



Have you spent your years as an empty nester flying south for the winter? This year, snowbirds and everyday travelers will be faced with an entirely different airline experience as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. From wearing masks to limited flight food options, here's what you can expect if you plan to fly in the coming months.

Pre-flight

Once you are through security (see new rules) and arrive at the gate, don't expect an empty concourse. The number of airline passengers screened by the Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) ticked up from about 80,000 a day in mid-April to about 762,000 on Aug. 10, though it's still down substantially from about 2.6 million on that day a year ago. Some airlines are limiting the number of passengers per flight to prevent the crowded conditions that might lead to infection. American Airlines and United Airlines have lifted capacity constraints, though both will allow customers to move to another flight free of charge if their scheduled flight is 70 percent or more full.

The major airlines are now serious about enforcing their requirements that passengers (unless they are 2 and under, usually) wear face masks during boarding and on the plane, as well as in areas throughout airports they serve, such as customer service counters and gates. The only time masks may be removed is for eating or drinking. They've announced that travelers who refuse to wear masks onboard will not be allowed to fly. "If a customer is unable to wear a face covering or mask for any reason, Southwest regrets that we will be unable to transport the individual," the company said in a statement.

Many airlines are also handling boarding differently to encourage physical distancing. Southwest Airlines, for one, previously asked customers to line up in two adjacent lines of 30, but it's now boarding just one line of 10 people at a time. Alaska AirlinesAllegiantDeltaFrontier, JetBlue and United are boarding their planes from the rear rows forward, to avoid crowding in the aisles.

 

Keep reading about the changes airlines are making in the midst of COVID-19.

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