Alaska Airlines today expanded Next-Level Care, the culmination of nearly 100 different measures put in place to enhance the safety and well-being of guests and employees.
“Caring for our guests and employees and ensuring their safety has always been our number one priority. COVID-19 has touched all of us in some way and it prompted us to fundamentally change the entire travel experience,” said Alaska Airlines CEO Brad Tilden. “Next-Level Care has been informed by medical experts, employees and guests, to ensure our customers are safe, whenever they’re ready to fly.”
Drawing on the expertise of the UW Medicine’s infectious disease experts, Alaska Airlines’ long-time medical advisors, guests flying today will notice changes designed with safety and comfort in mind:
- Pre-travel and wellness agreement: Guests are encouraged to use the Alaska mobile app to enjoy a smooth and contactless trip. Starting June 30, flyers will be required to complete a health agreement during check-in and verify that they haven’t exhibited COVID-19 symptoms in the past 72 hours, come into contact with someone who is symptomatic and agree to bring and wear a face mask or covering.
- Physical distancing onboard: Guests can enjoy extra space on board. Through July 31, middle seats are blocked and flights will be capped at 65% capacity to allow for extra space between guests not traveling together. Families or large groups can request to sit together by calling Reservations.
- Guest and employee face masks and hand sanitizer: Face masks are required for all guests 12 and over, and for all airline employees. Customers are expected to bring their own mask and wear it at the airport and during their flight. Additional supplies are available for anyone who forgets a face covering. Hand sanitizer is available throughout the airport including the lobby and gate areas. Personal hand sanitizing wipes will be available onboard starting in July.
- HEPA air filters: With one of the newest fleets in the country, Alaska’s planes have the latest air filtration technology. Planes are equipped with two hospital-grade HEPA filters that remove 99.95% of airborne contaminants like COVID-19. The air filtration system cycles outside air on board to fully refresh cabin air every three minutes. Studies have shown with frequent air recirculation, cabin air filtration is comparable to the air quality found in hospitals. Guests can enjoy additional filtered air by opening their personal air vent after boarding.
- Enhanced cleaning: Alaska Airlines is exceeding CDC cleaning guidelines, using high-grade, EPA-certified disinfectant to clean critical areas throughout the plane. Overnight every plane receives a deep clean and all surfaces, including high-touch areas, are sanitized.
- Electrostatic sprayers: In addition to traditional cleaning with high-level disinfectant, planes are sanitized with electrostatic sprayers that disinfect surfaces throughout the cabin. The electrostatic sprayer allows the disinfectant to wrap around and cling to curved and cornered surfaces for an additional level of protection.
- Safety measures at airports: Employees clean all surfaces throughout the airport including counters, kiosks and other high-traffic areas several times a day. Social distancing decals have been placed throughout the airport to remind people to “Mind Your Wingspan.” The stickers span six feet apart and help minimize crowding and promote distancing at ticketing counters, baggage drops, customer service centers and gate areas.
- Boarding changes: At the gate, guests now board by row numbers in smaller groups, from the back to the front, to enable appropriate spacing.
- Limited onboard service: To reduce interaction between flight crews and guests, inflight food and beverage service has been temporarily reduced. Flyers may bring their own snacks and water bottles to #FillBeforeYouFly. All seatback content except for the safety card has been removed to limit the spread of germs. Alaska’s Beyond Entertainment is still free for guests to enjoy hundreds of movies and TV shows streamed directly to their device.
- Peace of mind policies: Change and cancellation fees are waived for travel for tickets purchased before June 30, 2020. Current elite status will be extended through 2021. Elite-qualifying miles earned between January-April 2020 will be rolled into 2021 to give guests a head start on earning status for 2022. Additionally, all active Lounge memberships as of April 1 will be extended by six months.
These are some of the nearly 100 policies, procedures and actions that together offer guests and employees layers of safety and it’s making a difference. In post-flight surveys of guests last month, 82% shared that they experienced a safe and healthy environment and 95% said their seat area was clean.
Alaska Airlines consults with UW Medicine medical advisors Dr. John Lynch and Dr. Chloe Bryson-Cahn, both UW Medicine infectious diseases physicians and infection prevention experts.
“People should think of flying the same way that they would when they shop at a grocery store,” said Bryson-Cahn. “Wear a mask, wash your hands, or use hand sanitizer, cover your cough and stay home if you have any COVID-19 symptoms. We’re all in this together.”