Coronavirus concerns: Airlines taking action to combat spreading virus

Coronavirus
TIA Tampa International Airport

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – As the coronavirus continues to spread, many citizens are concerned about traveling – both within the United States and abroad.

Tampa International Airport released a statement Monday evening announcing additional steps workers are taking to combat the spread of the virus.

“Those steps include increased cleaning and sanitation of high-touch areas, providing extra hand sanitizer in key areas and reminding travelers and employees to practice good hygiene,” a spokesperson said. “At this time, the Florida Department of Health has deemed those visiting or working at TPA to be at a low risk of contracting, carrying or spreading the coronavirus. Additionally, we have been advised by the TSA and U.S. Customs and Border Protection that there have been no changes to their screening procedures at this time.”

President Donald Trump has issued a proclamation that implements some limitations on travelers who have recently visited China or Iran. Any foreign nationals who visited either country in the past 14 days are not allowed to enter the United States.

American citizens who have visited China or Iran within 14 days are allowed to return to the United States but have to enter through one of 11 approved airports.

Several airlines also say they are taking precautions to help combat the spread of the virus:

Alaska Airlines

Alaska Airlines officials say they are working closely with health experts from the University of Washington and following guidance from the Centers for Disease Control to help keep travelers safe.

The airline also laid out actions they’re taking on planes and in lounges.

“We’re enhancing aircraft cleaning between flights and will continue to evaluate our cleaning procedures,” airline officials said online. “This is in addition to the regular cleanings between flights.”

The airline is encouraging travelers to bring a water bottle to refill before boarding a flight because flight attendants will no longer refill single-use beverage cups. Travelers are being encouraged to travel with hand sanitizer or anti-bacterial wipes.

Alaska Airlines has suspended change and cancellation fees. They’re also offering a “peace of mind waiver.”

Air Canada

Air Canada has suspended flights between Canada and Beijing and Shanghai until April 10. The airline also suspended its daily nonstop flights between Toronto and Hong Kong until April 30.

American Airlines

American Airlines has suspended operations between Milan and New York and Miami. Flights are expected to resume April 25. The airline is also waiving change fees on some flights.

CEO Doug Parker and President Robert Isom sent a letter to team members last week to address concerns about the virus.

“Fear is a powerful emotion and everyone manages uncertainty with some degree of it. The best counter to fear is to stay educated and engaged and lead calmly through these uncertain times,” the letter said. ” We were both flying today and reminded yet again of the continued care and compassion you show for our customers and for each other.”

British Airways

British Airways says it continues to “liaise closely with global health authorities and government agencies on behalf of our customers.”

The airline has also canceled flights to and from Beijing and Shanghai. According to the airline’s website, operations to and from Italy will continue but flexible rebooking options have been put in place.

Delta

Several changes have been made to Delta flights. The airline has suspended service between the United States and Shanghai and Beijing until April 30. Services between the U.S. and Seoul, South Korea have been reduced.

The airline has also temporarily suspended its daily flight between New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport and Milan Malpensa Airport. A summer seasonal service between JFK and Venice was scheduled to begin April but will now start May 1. Delta is waiving change fees for certain flights.

Changes have also been made to the cleaning of Delta planes. According to the company’s website, staff started using a fogging technique in February to disinfect certain flights.

The airline has also set up a website to keep customers updated on its response to the COVID-19 situation.

Edelweiss

Edelweiss has not suspended any flights. The company is notifying travelers of entry regulations in some countries.

JetBlue

JetBlue has suspended change and cancel fees for some flights “to give customers confidence that they will not be charged any JetBlue fees for changes or cancellations later given evolving coronavirus concerns.”

“While authorities have not issued any travel restrictions to the locations we fly, we want to give our customers some peace of mind that we are ready to support them should the situation change,” JetBlue President and CEO Joanna Geraghty said in a statement.

Lufthansa

Lufthansa Group has canceled flights to mainland China – including Beijing, Shangai, Nanjing, Shenyang and Qingdao – until April 24. The airline is offering free rebooking or refunds to passengers who have booked flights to those destinations. In addition, flights to Hong Kong are being reduced in March and April.

The coronavirus situation may also lead to reduced flights in the coming weeks to Europe.

Southwest

Southwest does not fly to Europe or Asia, so no flights our routes have been changed or suspended.

The airline sent a note to customers on Monday saying they have enhanced overnight cleaning procedures of planes.

“Typically, we use an EPA approved, hospital-grade disinfectant in the lavatories and an interior cleaner in the cabin. Now, we are expanding the use of the hospital-grade disinfectant throughout the aircraft, and it will be used in the cabin, on elements in the flight deck, and in the lavatory. This goes beyond the standard CDC guidelines,” the note said. “Also, we equip each of our aircraft with a HEPA (High-Efficiency Particulate Air) filter, which filters out recirculated air onboard each plane to remove airborne particles. HEPA filters are also used in hospitals to provide patients with clean air.”

Southwest never charges travelers fees to change or cancel flights, a policy the company is reiterating amid the virus concerns.

“If your plans change or if you decide to postpone your travel, the funds used to pay for your flight can be applied to future travel as long as you cancel your reservation at least 10 minutes prior to the scheduled departure. The funds are valid for future travel up to one year from the original purchase date and must be used by the individual named on the ticket.”

United

Flights to and from Beijing, Chengdu, Hong Kong and Shanghai have been suspended through April 30. Some service to Tokyo, Narita, Osaka, Singapore and Seoul has also been suspended.

Change fees have been waived for travelers who had booked flights to or from certain cities.

This article will be updated if and when additional airlines respond to our inquiries, or if additional services are impacted.

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