JULY 15, 2020

At Lawyers Travel, we remain committed to providing excellent service to our valued clients throughout the COVID-19 global pandemic. Click the link below to view our travel resources guide which includes traveler health & safety  information regarding COVID-19.

As travelers prepare to fly during COVID-19, it is important to have a clear idea of each airline's safety measures.  Business Insider published a list of some specifics of each major US airline's COVID-19 policy — everything from whether middle seats are blocked from sale, to cancellations and change fee waivers (for many airlines, fee waivers ended June 30). Below are details of American, Delta and United's current policies during the pandemic, all of which are subject to change:
American Airlines
  • Cancellations and flexible booking: American Airlines is waiving change fees for flights booked by June 30, as long as the travel date is on or before September 30. It's the same for cancellations, which earn travelers a future travel credit. Whether travelers rebook or cancel for future credit, the new flight date must be on or before December 31, 2021. 
  • Mask policy: Unless someone is eating or drinking, the airline requires face coverings at all times for everyone except "very young children" or those with certain medical conditions. 
  • Middle seats and plane capacity: At the end of June, the airline returned to booking flights to full capacity. 
  • Boarding: American hasn't released official information on its updates page about changes to the boarding process. 
  • Food service: American is limiting food and drink service in the main cabin and encourages travelers to bring their own snacks and beverages. 
Delta Air Lines
  • Cancellations and flexible booking: Delta is waiving change fees for flights booked by June 30.
  • Mask policy: Face coverings are required for all employees and travelers starting at check-in. 
  • Middle seats and plane capacity: Delta will extend its limited booking capacity through September 30, which includes a 60% seating cap in Main Cabin, Delta Comfort+ and Delta Premium Select. 
  • Boarding: Delta has implemented social distancing procedures in the boarding process. 
  • Food service: The airline encourages travelers to pack their own food. 
United Airlines
  • Cancellations and flexible booking: United is waiving change fees for flights booked before June 30. 
  • Mask policy: All travelers must wear a face covering during the flight unless they're eating or drinking, though "certain travelers" are exempt. 
  • Middle seats and plane capacity: The airline plans to adjust seat selection to leave empty seats between travelers when possible; for fuller flights, travelers can reportedly change the flight for free or choose a travel credit instead. 
  • Boarding: United plans to board people in smaller groups, the majority of travelers entering from the back of the plane. 
  • Food service: For domestic flights with durations of two hours and 20 minutes or more, United will distribute snack bags to every traveler that include one sanitizing wipe, bottled water, stroopwafel and pretzels.

Click "READ MORE" below for additional details of every major US airline's safety and travel policies.

The Transportation and Security Administration (TSA) has implemented changes to its safety procedures, reports Travel Pulse. Under the new safety procedures, TSA officers are now instructed to clean their gloves or change their gloves between interactions with travelers such as pat-downs or ID checks to prevent cross-contamination. They are also encouraging travelers to put loose items in personal bags rather than security bins. Additionally, officers will now wear face shields as well as masks, and TSA is putting transparent screens where officers and travelers interact without social distancing.

New York, New Jersey and Connecticut have added four states to the list from which travelers are required to self-quarantine for 14 days, reports ABC Eyewitness News NY. The newly-added states are Minnesota, New Mexico, Ohio and Wisconsin. Delaware has been removed. Additionally, New York is now requesting proof of completion of the State Department of Health traveler form, which is being distributed to travelers by airlines prior to, and upon boarding or disembarking flights to New York State. New York plans to levy a $2,000 fine against travelers who leave airports in the state without submitting the form that says where they are arriving from and where they're going. Governor Andrew Cuomo said the fines would apply to travelers from the list of states - including Texas and Florida - who are required to quarantine for 14 days under New York's travel advisory. New Jersey and Connecticut do not have this rule in place.

The US Travel Association (US Travel) has said that travel can continue to move forward as long as people comply with wearing face coverings and other measures to curb the spread of COVID-19, reports Travel Weekly. When asked during a press call whether traveling right now is a good idea given the state of spread in this country, US Travel executive vice president of public affairs and policy Tori Barnes said that like other parts of the economy, travel can resume if folks "take very seriously health and safety measures" such as wearing a face covering, using hand sanitizer and physical distancing. US Travel launched a campaign around face coverings and other safety measures earlier this month. Trish Perl, a fellow with the Infectious Diseases Society of America and chief of the division of infectious diseases and the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, also said that compliance was paramount and proving to be a main obstacle to this country's reopening.

Nonessential travel between the US, Canada and Mexico is expected to remain blocked until at least late August amid spikes in confirmed COVID-19 cases in large swaths of the US, reports CNN. Two Canadian government sources with knowledge of the situation told CNN on Tuesday that the border with Canada is expected to remain closed until at least August 21st. Later on Tuesday, the Mexican Foreign Ministry announced that it was also extending its border restrictions until August 21st. The decisions to extend restrictions on both the northern and southern border come as more than half of US states have paused or rolled back reopening plans and confirmed cases in the United States approach 3.5 million. The Canadian government sources also said the extended restrictions on travel between the US and Canada will include stepped-up enforcement and surveillance at most Canadian land borders in the coming weeks.

According to OAG, the world's leading provider of digital flight information, intelligence and analytics for airports, airlines and travel tech companies, global airline capacity this week rose to 53.8 million seats, with growth in all 10 regional markets except the Southwest Pacific, reports Business Travel News. Overall, capacity stands at about 45 percent of where it was this time last year, but capacity has grown by 34 percent since the middle of June. The amount of capacity removed this week at the last minute—capacity planned for this week but removed within the past week—was down to about 3 percent of seats, lower than previous weeks.

American Airlines has delayed flights to Hong Kong, a day after the city introduced mandatory virus tests for all arriving crew members, reports Reuters. Airline crew were previously exempted from tests and quarantine obligations in Hong Kong, but a recent surge in COVID-19 cases in the city prompted its health chiefs to introduce stricter measures to combat rising concerns of a community outbreak. “Starting July 8, crew members of aircraft entering Hong Kong via the Hong Kong International Airport will be subject to mandatory COVID-19 testing... in addition to a 14-day medical surveillance,” a spokesperson for Hong Kong’s Department of Health said in an email to Reuters. American was scheduled to resume a Dallas/Fort Worth-Hong Kong passenger flight three times a week, starting July 9th, after passenger service to the city was suspended towards the end of January. The airline has now pushed resumption of the service to August 5th.

Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) is working with American Airlines – whose home base is DFW – to roll out a self-check-in for luggage, and all of its restrooms will be entirely touchless by the end of July with technology developed by Infax Inc., reports Skift. They will have hands-free sinks, soap, flushing toilets and paper towel dispensers, which will be equipped with sensors to alert workers when supplies are low. “Whatever the new normal (…) it’s going to be more and more around self-service,” Sean Donohue, chief executive of DFW, said in an interview. DFW is piloting three technology options for luggage check-ins and is also testing new technology around better sanitization, beginning with ultraviolet technology that can kill germs before they circulate into the HVAC system. The airport has also been testing touchless technology for employee temperature checks, but is not currently planning checks for travelers, barring a federal mandate for which there has yet to be any inclination by the US government. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, DFW has become the world’s busiest airport, according to figures from travel analytics firm Cirium, due to American Airline's strategy to concentrate much of its pandemic flying through its Texas hub.

Hilton Worldwide has unveiled a global cleanliness and customer service program for its meetings and events, reports Business Travel News. Dubbed Hilton EventReady with CleanStay, the program uses the company's overall cleanliness initiative, Hilton CleanStay, as its framework, but adds elements specific to group gatherings, such as sealed meeting rooms, additional sanitization stations in meeting spaces and a meeting-room cleanliness checklist. Thirty minutes before an event is scheduled to begin, the planner can break the meeting room's seal and use the checklist to inspect and approve the cleanliness of the facilities. Hilton also created the EventReady Playbook, a proprietary resource and reference. Sections of the document address room set-ups, food and beverage, hybrid meetings, wellness, creative networking, transportation and additional logistics and community service.