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If you have air travel planned, you may be curious (and potentially worried) about the safety measures enacted by airlines and airports to mitigate the risk of transmission of COVID-19.
Early in the pandemic, and throughout 2020 and 2021, safety policies varied widely from one airline to another. How and when they were screening customers, sanitizing aircraft, and enforcing rules (such as mask requirements) to protect customers were just some of the ways the airlines' policies differed. However, airlines have mostly aligned and stabilized in terms of their safety procedures.
Bear in mind that the safety of air travel remains uncertain with or without these policies in place, and that you should not take the assurance of the airlines, which have a vested interest in getting you on board, as health guidance. Heed the advice of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and delay travel until you are fully vaccinated.
What you need to know
Vaccinated employees: In August, United Airlines announced it will require all employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 by late October, although that timeline may move up. Frontier airlines also announced employees will need to be vaccinated by Oct. 1 or be tested on a weekly basis. Southwest, Delta and American, while encouraging and incentivizing employees to get vaccinated, have said they do not have immediate plans to require it. Delta did institute a policy in the spring requiring new hires to be vaccinated, but the policy doesn't apply to current employees.
No more blocked seats: As of May 1, 2021, no major U.S. airline is blocking seats. Planes can be booked to full capacity.
Boarding the plane: Normal boarding procedures have returned. For a period of time, many airlines were boarding back to front to reduce traveler contact, but this is no longer the case.
Cleaning and filtration: Airlines have introduced enhanced aircraft cleaning and air filtration protocols. They have also reduced or changed in-flight service to limit contact with crew members. This is great to see, but it does not mean that getting on these planes is “safe.” Face-covering policies are equally or more important.
Eating and drinking: Food and beverage service varies by airline. Many are not serving alcohol for the time being.
» Learn more: The best airlines to fly during COVID-19
Airline-specific COVID policies
To dive deeper into each airline's COVID-era policies, click through to the following external links:
How to maximize your rewards
You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2022, including those best for:
Flexibility, point transfers and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
No annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Flat-rate travel rewards: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Bonus travel rewards and high-end perks: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
on Chase's website
- Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
- Enjoy benefits such as a $50 annual Ultimate Rewards Hotel Credit, 5X on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3X on dining and 2X on all other travel purchases, plus more
- Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel
on Chase's website
Wells Fargo Autograph℠ Card
on Wells Fargo's website
- Earn 30,000 bonus points when you spend $1,500 in purchases in the first 3 months - that's a $300 cash redemption value
- Earn unlimited 3X points on the things that really add up - like restaurants, travel, gas stations, transit, popular streaming services, and phone plans. Plus, earn 1X points on other purchases
- $0 annual fee
Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
on Bank of America's website
- Earn unlimited 1.5 points per $1 spent on all purchases, with no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees and your points don't expire
- 25,000 online bonus points after you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening - that can be a $250 statement credit toward travel purchases
- Use your card to book your trip how and where you want - you're not limited to specific websites with blackout dates or restrictions
on Bank of America's website