Master List Of U.S. Airline Seating And Mask COVID-19 Policies
Flying now doesn’t look like it ever has before. Airports are receiving only a fraction of the travelers compared to the same time last year and some eateries and other businesses are closed. The experience in-flight is different, too. Nearly all airlines require masks onboard and most have announced stringent cleaning protocols as well.
Despite fewer people flying, some planes are still flying full. Social media shows photos of packed planes and complaints that it’s impossible to social distance. Everyone assumes that there will be empty seats or even empty rows onboard, but there’s no government mandate for increased personal space on flights. Each airline is handling this differently, with some purposely blocking seats and others proceeding as normal. Here’s what to expect on major U.S. airlines.
Mask Policies at a Glance
Every airline except for Allegiant Airlines and Sun Country Airlines has announced that passengers and crew members are required to wear face coverings throughout check-in, boarding and the flight itself.
Although these policies have been in place for a month or more, airlines are tightening enforcement and implementing consequences if you refuse, according to the Airlines for America industry trade organization. Passengers without masks may be denied boarding. Some airlines, including United, are taking it a step further by suspending noncompliant passengers from future travel as well.
Small children are not required to wear face coverings nor are passengers with medical conditions that prevent them from wearing masks. It is unclear how airlines will make these exceptions, so it’s best to bring a doctor’s note if you have an underlying condition.
Blocked Middle Seats
Right now, only Alaska Airlines, Delta, Hawaiian Airlines, JetBlue and Southwest are blocking seats for sale to limit the number of passengers onboard. Passengers on these airlines will be able to leave middle seats empty (or aisle seats on smaller aircraft). Everyone will have more space to spread out.
These empty middle seats are temporary, though. Alaska and JetBlue are only guaranteeing empty seats through July 31. Delta and Southwest Airlines have guaranteed extra space through September 30. Hawaiian Airlines has not specified an end date.
If you’re flying another airline, you should expect planes to be as full as ever before. When demand receded, airlines cut routes and consolidated schedules. However, travelers are returning to the skies as states open up and health risks feel more manageable, so planes are once again selling out. Summer vacation is back on.
As you might expect, airfare costs are not equal across the board. Be sure to consider the extra space—or lack thereof—when choosing the best flight value.
Specific Airline Policies
Mask Policy: Alaska Airlines is requiring all crew members and passengers over the age of 12 to wear masks. Face coverings will be provided upon request.
Blocked Seats: Alaska is capping all flights at 65% capacity for flights through July 31, 2020. Middle seats will be blocked accordingly to allow distancing onboard. Families who wish to
be seated together despite blocked seats can speak with gate agents or flight attendants for assistance.
Mask Policy: Allegiant Airlines recommends, but does not require, passengers and crew to wear face coverings onboard. They are providing passengers on some flights with a health and safety kit, which includes a single-use face mask, non-latex gloves and sanitizing wipes. Allegiant intends to have these kits available for all passengers, although they have not announced a specific start date.
Blocked Seats: Allegiant is not limiting capacity on their flights. Customers can request to be notified if their flight exceeds 65% capacity so they can explore alternate travel options. When possible, crew members may reseat customers to provide additional distancing.
Mask Policy: All passengers flying on American Airlines are required to wear face coverings onboard. “Very young children” are exempt, as is anyone with an underlying condition that prevents them from wearing one. Otherwise, non-compliant passengers will be denied boarding for current and/or future travel. Limited masks may be available if you didn’t pack one, but are not guaranteed.
Blocked Seats: American Airlines is not limiting capacity on their flights. However, passengers may be reseated after boarding is complete to allow additional distancing if there are seats available. On full flights, travelers can optionally request to move flights at no charge.
Mask Policy: Passengers and crew members are required to wear face coverings onboard, with exceptions for children and those with some medical conditions. You are required to bring your own mask, but masks are available if needed at check-in, in lounges, boarding gates, jet bridges and onboard the aircraft.
Blocked Seats: Delta has one of the most generous blocked seating arrangements in the industry. Middle seats are blocked on larger aircraft and select aisle seats are blocked on smaller aircraft for travel through September 30, 2020. Passenger loads are capped at 50% in domestic first class cabins and 60% for main cabin (economy) and Comfort+. International “Delta One” cabins, their most spacious seats, are capped at 75% capacity.
Mask Policy: All Fronter customers are required to wear face coverings over their nose and mouth, including at ticket counters and gate areas.
Blocked Seats: Frontier is blocking a limited number of middle seats in the front of the plane. These seats are notated as “Stretch Seats” and also include extra legroom. These seats require an additional fee (prices vary based on route and flight duration).
Temperature Screenings: Notably, Frontier Airlines is the only airline requiring temperature screenings from all passengers before boarding. They are using touchless technology to screen passengers and will deny boarding to anyone with a temperature of 100.4 or higher.
Mask Policy: Hawaiian Airlines requires all passengers to wear masks during boarding, in-flight and deplaning.
Blocked Seats: Hawaiian is currently blocking middle seats on larger aircraft for an unspecified amount of time. Customers planning future travel should be prepared for the possibility that this policy could change before their trip.
Mask Policy: All JetBlue passengers and crew are required to wear face coverings while flying. This includes during check-in, boarding, in flight and deplaning.
Blocked Seats: JetBlue is blocking all middle seats on larger aircraft and most aisle seats on smaller aircraft in order to allow social distancing onboard. This policy is set to expire after July 31, 2020.
Mask Policy: Customers are required to wear a face covering for boarding and the duration of the flight. Passengers are encouraged to bring their own face covering, but masks will be provided if needed.
Blocked Seats: Southwest is limiting the number of tickets sold on each flight to allow extra distancing for travel through September 30, 2020. This equates to blocked middle seats, although they are maintaining their open seating policy. Customers traveling together are welcome to sit together, including in a middle seat if they choose. Regardless, there will be space for separate parties to sit apart.
Mask Policy: Travelers are required to wear face coverings over the nose and mouth when flying on Spirit Airlines. Masks are not provided, so customers should pack their own.
Blocked Seats: Spirit is not limiting capacity on board their flights and notes that some aircraft may be more full than others.
Mask Policy: United requires all passengers and crew to wear a mask throughout their flight. Masks will be provided at no cost if customers need them. Customers who refuse or who remove masks in-flight may be suspended from flying the airline again in the future.
Blocked Seats: United has not instituted capacity restrictions for their flight and passengers should be prepared for the possibility of completely sold out flights. However, if there are more than 70% of seats booked, passengers can move to another flight instead.
Customers have a lot of factors to weigh when considering which airline to fly. Travelers are used to comparing extra fees, baggage allowances, legroom and even coronavirus change and cancellation policies. Now, mask requirements and space onboard may also impact your decision for summer flying.
Like everything related to COVID-19, these policies are subject to change as airlines re-evaluate health concerns. If you are planning flights beyond the dates in current policies, keep an eye on airline announcements before your trip.