Alaska Airline announced today a requirement for the wearing of face masks for both frontline employees and passengers. They are the latest carrier to establish a face mask policy. This post is based on the Airline news release that was issued this morning.
Employee Changes Begin May 4th
The new airline requirement to align with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines will require masks for employees who cannot maintain six feet of social distance from passengers and co-workers. These employees include pilots, flight attendants and customer service agents.
“Safety is our most important value at Alaska Airlines, and thanks to our employees we have an incredibly safe operation. In light of COVID-19, we’re in a new era of air travel and are continually updating our safety standards to better protect our guests and employees. For now, this includes wearing masks, which is another layer of protection that can reduce the spread of the virus,” said Max Tidwell, Alaska Airlines’ vice president of safety.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has changed everything, and that includes how we fly. Safety is our number one priority and wearing masks will make air travel safer for everyone. We’re all in this together,” said Jeffrey Peterson, president of Alaska Airlines Master Executive Council, Association of Flight Attendants.
Passenger Changes Begin May 11th
Passengers will be expected to bring their own mask and will be required to wear it throughout the airport and flight experience. Additional supplies will be available for anyone who forgets a face mask. Specific details about the face mask requirements will be shared with guests later next week and in pre-trip communications before their date of travel. The temporary policy will be reevaluated periodically as guidance evolves.
A month ago, Alaska Airlines began an enhanced aircraft cleaning process to protect passengers and crew members. I wrote in detail on how the airline is updating aircraft cleaning to combat the potential contact with the virus, you can read that story here.
Seating Policies That Are Already In Effect
Last month, Alaska Airlines began using capacity controls to help with social distancing. These policies include:
- Blocking the sale of all middle seats in economy and
- Reducing first class seat sales to 50% of first class cabin capacity.
Changes At The Airport
In addition to social distancing requirements on board, passengers will also see changes in the terminal. The face mask requirements are a few of several safety and social distancing measures Alaska Airlines is taking at the airport and in the air to support employees and passengers. Here is a list of measures that are being introduced:
- Expanded enhanced cleaning on flights, which includes use of high-grade, EPA registered disinfectants to sanitize critical touchpoints like tray tables, seat belts, overhead bins, armrests and lavatories.
- Expanded use of electrostatic sanitizing spray to disinfect aircraft interiors.
- Limiting the number of passengers onboard and blocking middle seats on large aircraft and aisle seats on small aircraft through May 31, 2020.
- Enhanced and more frequent cleaning of airport counters, lounges and high-traffic areas.
- Social distancing floor decals rolled out this week at airports to remind guests and employees to remain separated by at least six feet.
- Providing disposable surgical and re-usable fabric masks for employees.
- Continued use of hospital-grade air filters on all planes. These HEPA filters are proven effective in removing airborne particles and cycle new air into the cabin every three minutes.
We are definitely in different times and for at least the short-term, this may be the new norm. These policies are temporary and they will be evaluated and updated as conditions warrant. I suspect that other major carriers will follow the trend that was started by Jet Blue. I will continue to update mask requirements at Alaska Airlines as conditions change.