Building on a Patchwork of Health Standards

The Landing

In the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, ALPA was often the lone voice in calling for uniform public-health standards to protect flight crews and passengers. By identifying shortcomings in airline compliance with important public-health guidelines, the Association has brought forth public pressure to help resolve its concerns about maintaining safety on the flight deck and in the cabin. The implementation of a uniform set of public-health requirements is not only important for the health and safety of crewmembers, but is also key to regaining the public’s confidence in flying.

As ALPA continues to press Congress and Parliament to require airlines to do the right thing and adhere to a common set of public-health standards, the Association has also been working to restore consumer confidence in the airline industry, increase bookings, and forestall additional job actions by the airlines.

Thanks to ALPA’s efforts, more and more airlines are publicly promoting the ways they’re working to make flying healthier, bookings are up, and airplanes are being brought out of storage and put back into service. Of the 34 U.S. and Canadian carriers with ALPA-represented pilots, 14 include information on their public websites devoted to the health actions they’ve recently taken. 

While it’s apparent that airlines are headed in the right direction, uniformity of message and practice are crucial toward achieving the two goals we all share: creating the safest air transportation system possible in light of the pandemic and bringing passengers back to the skies.

The following is a compilation of those health adaptations made as of June 4.

Of the eight U.S. carriers:

  • Masks: Two indicate they’ll provide masks, while six ask passengers to bring their own.
  • Social distancing: Four state they won’t be selling middle seats, but all have different dates for when this policy will end. One simply states that it’s promoting social distancing.
  • Enhanced cleaning: All advertise enhanced cleaning procedures. Four tout electrostatic spraying while one promotes ultra-low-volume fogging.
  • Air filtration: Four highlight onboard HEPA filters.
  • Temperature screening: Two are currently taking passenger temperatures prior to boarding.
  • Boarding/deplaning: Three cite revamped boarding/deplaning procedures.
  • In-flight service: Two mention adjusting in-flight service.

Of the six Canadian carriers:

  • Masks: While the Canadian government mandates masks for crews and passengers, two indicate that passengers must provide their own or they won’t be permitted to travel.
  • Social distancing: One states that it was the first to practice social distancing, while one states that the government of Nunavut has requested that, wherever possible, passengers who’ve been isolated as part of the its COVID-19 prevention measures are separated from other passengers while traveling.
  • Enhanced cleaning: Three list enhanced cleaning on all flights, one cites enhanced cleaning after certain flights, one indicates that all materials from aircraft seat pockets will be removed, and one highlights using a hydrogen peroxide–based solution cleaner.
  • Temperature screening: Two indicate they’re requiring passenger temperature screenings. (Note: The Canadian government is in the process of phasing in mandatory temperature screening prior to security checkpoints.)


This article was originally published in the June 2020 issue of Air Line Pilot.

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