As COVID-19 infections surge across the country, the CDC is encouraging people not to travel for the holidays. But many are still planning to do just that and airlines are spending big, hoping to convince you it’s safe to fly.
American Airlines is promising a new customer experience from check-in to boarding to improve safety and alleviate concerns about air travel during the pandemic.
It starts with a bag drop that uses a touchless system across all airports and new bio-metric screening currently being tested at Reagan National Airport in D.C. and Dallas-Fort Worth Airport.
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“What we are looking to do now is to increase the confidence to the traveling public that it is safe to fly,” said Radney Robertson from American Airlines at Regan National Airport.
American Airlines gave NBC a behind the scenes look at their efforts to disinfect planes between flights including hiring more crews to conduct deep cleans, wiping down all the plane’s surfaces and using a fogging type sprayer with what the company calls “hospital grade” disinfectant to limit any possible exposure to coronavirus.
“We will continue to explore all processes that will enhance safety. As we said before, we have some rapid testing that is going on at some of our locations and we will probably expand that as more of our airports expand that capability,” Robertson said.
Like other major airlines, American continues to make masks mandatory on all flights. In fact, airline employees are ready to give you a mask if you don’t have an appropriate face cover.
One thing American won’t do over the Thanksgiving holiday is guarantee you’ll have an empty middle seat next to you, which is a promise still being made - at least for now - by several airlines including Southwest and Delta.
All airlines say they have enhanced COVID-19 cleaning and disinfecting efforts in terminals and onboard planes.
Travelers can always check their airlines’ website prior to flying for a list of their COVID-19 protocols to increase consumer confidence on what’s expected to be the busiest travel period since the pandemic started.
“Last year, American operated during the busy Thanksgiving travel season about 6,200 daily flights and while it will be significantly reduced this year, we are increasing our schedule to 15% which will take us up to about 4,000 flights systemwide,” Robertson said.
Several airports around the country are offering rapid COVID testing for a fee.
It’s a program that was being considered at Miami International Airport. But a spokesperson tells me they will not be implementing it at MIA for now primarily because PCR tests, which need to be done 48 hours in advance, are what most countries require.
A spokesperson from Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport tells NBC 6 Responds they are exploring testing at the airport – but can’t say at this point when or if it will be offered there.