United has an intricate plan to repatriate COVID-positive pilots

Dec 22, 2020

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

One of the many concerns of COVID-era travel is the possibility of testing positive for the novel coronavirus while on a trip.

For travelers, that would mean a two-week (or longer) quarantine in a hotel or government-sponsored facility, with limited access to medical care.

For United pilots, however, the outcome wouldn’t be nearly as inconvenient.

Sign up for TPG’s free new biweekly Aviation newsletter for more airline-specific news!

The Chicago-based airline has promised it will repatriate any of its pilots who test positive while on an international work assignment, according to an internal memo viewed by Skift.

This detailed, five-page plan includes a rundown of the procedures, starting after an infected (or potentially infected) pilot contacts both the chief pilot’s office and Medaire, a company that provides medical, security and travel support to airlines.

According to the memo, pilots are instructed to reach out after testing positive, developing symptoms or reporting close contact for at least 15 minutes with someone who has tested positive.

Then, headquarters will work with the potentially infected pilot on extraction procedures. In the meantime, the pilot must quarantine-in-place until the extraction plans are confirmed.

In most cases, the potentially infected pilot will be flown home on a dedicated charter or other non-revenue flight — passenger flights are off-limits, according to the memo and Skift report.

Once on the airplane, all crew must don an N95 mask and ensure social distancing throughout the flight.

The potentially infected crew must sit in coach on a single-aisle jet, or in the rear-most Polaris pod on twin-aisle planes — and cannot go to the front of the plane, except during an emergency.

The person must also use a dedicated lavatory and galley to prepare food and dispose of trash. After using the galley, the pilot is instructed to sanitize and disinfect any of the potentially contaminated areas.

Upon arrival, the pilot should be the last person off the plane.

It’s unclear if the extraction procedures apply to potentially infected flight attendants as well. The airline declined to comment on the Skift report, but both American and Delta confirmed that they have similar plans in place.

United’s extraction plan seems designed to boost crew members’ confidence in flying during the pandemic. Should a pilot test positive during a work assignment, he or she might fear being separated from family with limited access to medical care, or worse.

Along the same lines, U.S. airlines have been busy adjusting their Shanghai flights to accommodate crew concerned about layover procedures during the trip. Both Delta and United have added a stop in Seoul for a crew change, ensure that none of the carriers’ crews have to disembark in China and face extremely strict quarantine measures.

“Because of the quarantine restrictions, we don’t want any of our crew members to stay in China,” Delta CEO Ed Bastian back in May.

Featured photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

Earn 90,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer ends 8/3/2022.

With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 90,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer ends 8/3/2022.
  • Earn up to 20,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) with Status Boost® per year. After you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, you can earn 10,000 MQMs up to two times per year, getting you closer to Medallion® Status. MQMs are used to determine Medallion® Status and are different than miles you earn toward flights.
  • Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
  • Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide including takeout and delivery in the U.S., and at U.S. supermarkets.
  • Earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.
  • Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $80 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
  • Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
  • Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck® after you apply through any Authorized Enrollment Provider. If approved for Global Entry, at no additional charge, you will receive access to TSA PreCheck.
  • Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • $250 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Regular APR
17.24%-26.24% Variable
Annual Fee
Balance Transfer Fee
Recommended Credit
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.