The hot topic in travel in the Covid-19 (coronavirus). This is a fluid situation that changes from day to day. Alaska Airlines like other carriers has been active from flexible ticketing to enhanced aircraft cleaning practices. Here is the latest news from Alaska Airlines concerning the Covid-19 outbreak. The CDC has a dedicated webpage for COVID-19 and you can find it here.
No change or cancellation fees for:
- Travel through March 31, 2020, regardless of purchase date
- New tickets purchased between February 27, 2020 and March 31, 2020
We’re continuously working with medical experts and federal agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to evaluate our preventative processes. We’re also tackling frequently asked questions.
If you have to change your trip:
What if I used miles? If you used miles to purchase your ticket, for travel in March, we’ll re-deposit the miles in your Mileage Plan account.
How long does it take to retrieve the miles back into My Account? Your miles will be back in your account in 24-48 hours.
What if I used a companion fare? If you used a companion certificate, for travel in March, we would reissue the companion certificate for future travel. You should receive the certificate in 5-7 days.
What if I purchased a nonrefundable First Class, main, or award ticket?If you purchased a nonrefundable First Class, main, or award ticket for travel through March 31, 2020, you may change without fee or, cancel your trip and deposit the funds into your My Account wallet or credit certificate via email.
What if I purchased a Saver fare? If you purchased a Saver fare for travel through March 31, 2020, you may cancel your trip and deposit the funds into your My Account wallet or credit certificate via email.
What do I do if I’ve already paid the change fee? If you traveled or are traveling between February 27, 2020 and March 31, 2020 and you were charged an out of pocket change fee, please contact Reservations. We’ll take care of the change fee to your original form of payment.
What if I’m traveling after March 31? At this time, our flexible travel waiver only applies to tickets purchased to travel up through March 31, 2020. We will continue to evaluate the situation and may make adjustments as warranted.
What if I purchased my ticket through Expedia? Or another third-party website? If you purchased your tickets through a third party, such as Expedia, another travel agency, or another airline, contact them directly for assistance.
Air Quality Aboard The Aircraft
The air quality aboard the aircraft is filtered through high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters. Covid-19 is actually spread from droplets released when an infected person coughs or sneezes. The HEPA filters are industrial grade and Alaska Airlines changes them in accordance with manufactures specifications.
“It’s not a self-contained tube with the same air for a six-hour flight,” said Constance von Muehlen, senior vice president of maintenance & engineering. “The air in a cabin comes from the top and flows out from your feet. In fact, there’s a large portion of air that comes directly from outside. Within a three-minute period you get completely new air in the entire cabin.”
If guests want more filtered air, they can simply open the vent above them. It’s important to note that the flight deck, galley areas, and lavatories get air directly from outside the aircraft. That air also gets directly exhausted outside.
Enhanced Aircraft Cleaning Protocol
As I wrote about in my aircraft cleaning post, Alaska Airlines has enhanced aircraft cleaning both during turnarounds at the gate and major overnight cleaning practices. Here is a video of the enhance cleaning protocol at Alaska Airlines:
Questions And Answers From Health & Industrial Experts
What parts of Alaska Airlines’ planes get cleaned after each flight?
We’ve always had robust cleaning processes on our aircraft and will continue using disinfectants that are effective against viruses to ensure the safety of our guests and employees. As an extra level of precaution, we’ve implemented an enhanced aircraft cleaning process between our flights that are on the ground longer than an hour at our hubs. We’re focusing more attention on the areas of the cabin which are touched most frequently such as arm rests, seat belts, tray tables, overhead controls including air vents, light buttons, call buttons and exterior and interior door handles to lavatories. All our aircraft that remain on the ground overnight get a thorough cleaning. In addition, our crews are also cleaning front and back of seats, window shades and handles to carry-on compartments. – Celley Buchanan, Director of Operations Support Services
Do Alaska Airlines’ airplanes use HEPA filters in the air vents? If so, how effective are they and how many planes have them?
Yes. Every Alaska Airlines aircraft uses High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters as part of our recirculation air systems. HEPA filters are believed to be effective to 99.95% or greater in removing particulate contaminants in the air. Through a combination of outside air and recirculated air, the air in the cabin is completely replaced by our air flow system approximately every 2 to 3 minutes. – Constance von Muehlen, Senior Vice President of Maintenance and Engineering
We know that the HEPA filters in Alaska Airlines aircraft are robust and effective at filtering many pathogens from the air. But does this coronavirus float around in the air?
At this time, there is no evidence that the virus floats in the air leading to infection farther away. Current understanding about how the virus that causes coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) spreads is largely based on what is known about similar coronaviruses. The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person.
- Between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet).
- Through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads. The virus is fragile and does not live long on surfaces. – Dr. John Lynch, M.D., M.P.H.
If I travel, what are some things I can do to prevent getting sick?
Great question! Probably the most important thing you can do to prevent getting sick while traveling is to wash your hands frequently. This means washing your hands not only before eating and after using the bathroom, but also multiple times throughout the day. Another helpful recommendation is to wipe down high touch surfaces, like tray tables and arm rests. – Dr. John Lynch, M.D., M.P.H.
Are children or older adults more susceptible to the virus that causes COVID-19 compared with the general population?
There is a lot more to learn about this virus but so far it looks like it doesn’t peer to be very harmful for children. For most healthy adults this infection may be more like the flu. At the same time, it does seem to be much more dangerous for older adults and people who have medical issues with their hearts, lungs and kidneys or who may be immunosuppressed. – Dr. John Lynch, M.D., M.P.H.
How effective is wearing a mask or gloves?
The CDC, who advise the country on public health, recommends against people who are healthy wearing a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory illnesses, including COVID-19. A facemask should be used by people who are ill or show symptoms of having the virus. This is to protect others from the risk of getting infected. Just like masks, gloves are not recommended if the person is not contacting blood or bodily fluids. We know the people who often wear gloves do not wash their hands is much, which is the most important thing we can do to prevent getting COVID-19, influenza or many other infections. – Dr. John Lynch, M.D., M.P.H.
What is Alaska Airlines doing to sanitize its gates, Hubs?
At every airport we serve, we’re encouraging our employees to sanitize work areas before and after they perform tasks, including gate and check-in counters, kiosks, bag sizers and stanchions. The safety of our guests and employees is our top priority. We are also working with our janitorial partners and teams at airports we serve to set up additional cleaning runs to sanitize work surfaces. – Wayne Newton, Vice President of Airport Operations & Customer Service
Everyone is concerned about the Covid-19 virus and whether they should travel or not. Alaska Airlines is taking a proactive approach from enhanced aircraft cleaning to flexible ticketing. This situation continues to change day by day. Travel Codex will continue to update the situation as conditions change.