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All major US airlines cut in-flight service, lounge access due to coronavirus

April 04, 2020
9 min read
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Airlines around the world have been overwhelmed by the effects of the novel coronavirus, with many slashing routes and parking jets. In the U.S., American Airlines announced plans to cut its domestic schedule by 30% in April and 80% in May, and Delta Air Lines plans to ground half of its fleet. United Airlines has cut system capacity by at least 60% in April and May and Southwest has cut 25% of its entire operation.

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But those aren't the only changes coming. If you're an essential traveler and need to fly in the coming days and weeks, your ground and in-flight experience might look a little different from what you're used to. Here's what you need to know.

Changes coming to Alaska

In-flight service

Alaska is modifying its in-flight service as follows. For flights less than 250 miles, all service is suspended.

For flights longer than 250 miles:

  • Meals will not be offered in first class
  • Only water and a limited selection of canned sodas, juices and beer will be served
  • No hot beverages, orange juice, cocktails or wine will be served
  • No food will be served, other than a small packaged snack

Alaska is suspending all meal pre-order services too. In addition, it's stopping the in-flight tablet rental service.

Lounges

All of Alaska's lounges are now closed, except for the Seattle location in the D Concourse.

Seating policy

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

Though Alaska isn't formalizing a policy for social distancing onboard, it's allowing passengers to change seats once the boarding door closes. Alaska's also capping the number of people seated in first class to maximize distance.

Changes coming to American

In-flight service

On all flights shorter than 2,200 miles (which is typically less than 4.5 hours, or the distance between New York-JFK to Dallas, for example):

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  • Alcohol will not be available in Main Cabin, alcohol will be available on request in first class
  • Beverages available on request will be limited to water, canned beverages or juice
  • No snacks or food for purchase will be served
  • Meals will not be offered in first class
(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

For all flights longer than 2,200 miles (typically more than 4.5 hours), including transcontinental and flights to Hawaii:

  • Alcohol will not be served in Main Cabin and Main Cabin Extra except on long-haul international flights, alcohol will be available in first class
  • Other Main Cabin beverages will be served as usual
  • No snacks or food for purchase will be served, Main Cabin meals will be served on long-haul international flights
  • First and business class meals will be served on one tray instead of in courses

Lounges

American has already closed all of its Flagship Lounges and Flagship First Dining. These changes are in addition to the Admirals Club closures previously announced. However, American will maintain Admirals Club front desk customer service at large U.S. airports and at London Heathrow Airport (LHR). The closed Admirals Club lounges are:

  • Charlotte, North Carolina (CLT), Concourse C
  • Chicago (ORD), Concourse H/K
  • Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW), Terminals A, C and D
  • London Heathrow (LHR), Terminal 3
  • Los Angeles (LAX), Terminal 4
  • Miami (MIA), Gate D30
  • New York (JFK), Gate 12 (Flagship Lounge with temporary Admirals Club service)
  • New York (LGA), Concourse D
  • Philadelphia (PHL), Terminal B/C
  • Phoenix (PHX), Gate A7 and Gate A19
  • Washington (DCA), Terminal C

Related: American Airlines announces additional lounge closures due to coronavirus

To encourage social distancing, all food and beverage offerings, restrooms and shower facilities will be temporarily suspended.

Seating policy

To encourage social distancing, gate agents and flight attendants will be able to reassign seats to create more space between customers.

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

Once on board, customers can move to another seat if it's available, provided there aren’t any aircraft weight or balance restrictions. American is also blocking 50% of all middle seats and all seats adjacent to flight attendant jump seats on every flight.

Changes coming to Delta

In-flight service

Delta's moved to a temporary "essential only" food and beverage service on all domestic flights except between Atlanta (ATL) and Honolulu (HNL). In a memo to employees, Delta says it will offer limited snack options in Main Cabin and Comfort+, and on first class flights fewer than 900 miles. First class snack baskets will be unavailable.

First class and Delta One meal service on U.S. domestic and short-haul international flights greater than 900 miles will now be replaced by individually prepackaged, nonperishable Flight Fuel boxes with two snack offerings.

Beverages will be individual bottled water only across all cabins, with plastic cups and ice also removed. No alcohol will be served. Finally, preselect and special meal service will be temporarily suspended.

Lounges

Delta previously announced that most of its Sky Clubs would close until demand recovers. Instead of listing the lounges that will close, this is the list of locations that will remain open. The airline notes that this list may change based on demand.

  • Atlanta (ATL – A17, B18, F, T)
  • Boston (BOS – A7)
  • Washington (DCA — B15)
  • Fort-Lauderdale (FLL)
  • Honolulu (HNL)
  • New York (JFK – T4)
  • La Guardia (LGA – C, D)
  • Los Angeles (LAX – T2)
  • Orlando (MCO)
  • Miami (MIA)
  • Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP – F/G)
  • Phoenix (PHX)
  • Seattle (SEA – A)
  • Salt Lake City (SLC)
  • Tampa-St. Petersburg (TPA)

Related: Best cards for airport lounge access

Seating policy

Delta hasn't formally announced any changes to its seating policy due to the coronavirus.

Changes coming to JetBlue

In-flight service

JetBlue's only offering a single snack selection, as well as water for all its flights in coach. Buy-on-board sales have been suspended.

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

Some JetBlue planes feature a self-serve pantry (including its newest Airbus A321neo), but that's now closed. Mint business-class passengers will be served food from the EatUp menu, as well as red and white wine, and beer, though special meals will not be available.

Seating policy

JetBlue hasn't formalized a seating policy to encourage social distancing in light of the coronavirus.

Changes coming to Southwest

In-flight service

Southwest is suspending all in-flight service in light of the coronavirus.

Seating policy

Southwest has an open seating policy, allowing customers to choose their seats when they get on board. Though there's no official policy to encourage social distancing, passengers should select seats far from others.

Changes coming to United

In-flight service

United is moving to prepackaged foods and sealed beverages across its cabins.

For domestic flights, coach and biz passengers will be offered choices from a snack basket. If your flight is over two hours and 20 minutes long, then you'll receive a snack box if you're seated up front.

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

On premium transcontinental flights between Newark and Boston and Los Angeles and San Francisco, there'll be a snack choice in coach, and Polaris and Premium Plus customers will receive a packaged meal with their entree choice wrapped. They'll also be offered a packaged snack before arrival.

Internationally, coach passengers will receive an entree, a snack and packaged dessert, as well as pre-packed midflight and pre-arrival snacks. In Polaris and Premium Plus, the main meal will be served on one tray, either prepackaged or covered for you to unwrap.

United will only offer sealed beverages. Furthermore, they'll no longer offer ice, coffee and tea service and poured alcohol. Water will be served in individual bottles, and beer and wine will still be available in individual bottles.

Preorder meals and food for purchase will not be available, except for Kosher meals on the Newark to Tel Aviv route.

Lounges

United has closed all of its Polaris Lounge locations, along with a majority of United Clubs. There are only nine club outposts open including:

  • Chicago O'Hare location near gate B6
  • Denver location near gate B44
  • Houston location near gate C1
  • Houston location near gate E11
  • Los Angeles location near gate 71A
  • Newark location near gate C74 (for customer service functions only)
  • San Francisco location near gate G6
  • San Francisco location near gate F11
  • Washington D.C. (IAD) location near gate C17

Related: The ultimate guide to United Club access

United is also automatically extending United Club Lounge certificates that are expiring until August. Here's a look at the new policy:

  • Certificates that expired in March have been extended until July 31, 2020
  • Certificates that are due to expire in May have been extended until Aug. 31, 2020
  • Certificates that are due to expire in Aug. have not been extended
(Photo by Zach Honig/The Points Guy)

Seating policy

United has encouraged its gate agents to reseat customers to maximize social distancing. Though the airline isn't blocking any seats, your seat assignment may change before departure to ensure adequate separation between passengers.

Bottom line

Airlines across the world are struggling amid the coronavirus pandemic. As such, most have suspended or heavily modified in-flight service. Furthermore, airport lounges have been closed or had their hours curtailed. Finally, we're seeing carriers adjust their seating policy to practice social distancing.

Additional reporting by Victoria Walker

Featured image by (Photo by Zach Griff / The Points Guy)

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Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
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There's a lot to love about the Amex Gold card. It's been a fan favorite during the pandemic because of its fantastic rewards rate on restaurants (that includes takeout and delivery in the U.S.!) and U.S. supermarkets. If you're hitting the skies soon, you'll also earn bonus points on travel. Paired with up to $120 in Uber Cash (for U.S. Uber rides or Uber Eats orders) and up to $120 in annual dining statement credits at eligible partners, there's no reason that the foodie shouldn't add this card to their wallet. Enrollment required.

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  • Not as useful for those living outside the U.S.
  • Some may have trouble using Uber/food credits
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  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S., and earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
  • Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • $120 Uber Cash on Gold: Add your Gold Card to your Uber account and each month automatically get $10 in Uber Cash for Uber Eats orders or Uber rides in the U.S., totaling up to $120 per year.
  • $120 Dining Credit: Satisfy your cravings and earn up to $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with the American Express® Gold Card at Grubhub, The Cheesecake Factory, Goldbelly, Wine.com, Milk Bar and select Shake Shack locations. Enrollment required.
  • Choose the color that suits your style. Gold or Rose Gold.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • Annual Fee is $250.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees