Airlines are increasingly requiring health checks before flying. Alaska is the latest

Jun 12, 2020

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Alaska Airlines has become the latest U.S. carrier to require that passengers verify their health before going on a flight.

Starting June 30, passengers will be required to complete a health checklist during check-in that asks them to verify that they have not exhibited any COVID-19 symptoms in the 72 hours prior to flying. They’ll also have to confirm that they’ve not come into contact with a symptomatic individual during that same time frame.

The Seattle-based airline announced this move this week as part its “Next-Level Care” program, which includes about 100 different measures that the carrier says provides “layers of safety” for both customers and employees.

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Customers who are not able to comply with the requirements can reschedule their trip as long as their tickets was purchased before June 30 and rebooked travel occurs within a year of the original itinerary. Customers may have to pay the difference in fare between the original ticket and the new one.

The new “health agreement” being added by Alaska puts it on par with that of United and Frontier in requiring such declarations. Going one step further, Frontier has started screening flyers’ temperatures before boarding.

More broadly, the moves come as U.S. airlines begin to add flights back to their normally busy summer schedules. While passenger numbers at airports are increasing, they remain well below 2019 numbers as many are still reluctant to fly. Even with a recent summer uptick, the number of people being screened at Transportation Security Administration checkpoints in early June are still 80% below the totals from the same time a year ago.

Underscoring coronavirus-related health concerns, a May TPG report found nearly 40% of travelers surveyed said they’d feel safe flying again only after a vaccination for COVID becomes available. Against that sentiment, carriers have had to toe a fine line in convincing customers to return. They’re been instituting new policies — like the one rolled out by Alaska — to help assuage safety concerns and regain their confidence about getting on  plane again. Delta even launched its “Global Cleanliness” division to dedicate more resources into upending cleanliness standards in the sky.

More: How far can airborne COVID germs really spread on a plane?

“Caring for our guests and employees and ensuring their safety has always been our number one priority,” Alaska Airlines CEO Brad Tilden said in a statement announcing its new health agreement. “COVID-19 has touched all of us in some way and it prompted us to fundamentally change the entire travel experience.”

He said the company’s Next-Level Care initiative “has been informed by medical experts, employees and guests, to ensure our customers are safe whenever they’re ready to fly.”

Alaska has also announced that personal hand sanitizing wipes will be available onboard starting in July.

These new policies come as the airline had already made several safety measures, such as blocking middle seats and capping flights at 65% capacity to allow physical distancing onboard until July 31. The airline has also mandated face masks for customers and employees alike, offering face coverings to anyone that may forget about it. Hand sanitizers are offered throughout the airport as well, including the lobby and gate areas.

More: With over 90% of flyers still grounded, what it’s like flying in the U.S. right now

Featured photo by Alex Tai/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

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