NORTH TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Some criticism of Fort Worth-based American Airlines after a passenger boarded a weekend flight and found it nearly full, with no social distancing guidelines being practiced.
On April 25 American Airlines Flight 388 left JFK Airport in New York City, bound for Charlotte, North Carolina. That’s not unusual.
But what passenger Erin Strine did find troubling was the number of people on the plane and the inability to practice social distancing.
Strine posted a short video on Twitter of the elbow-to-elbow passengers saying, “Well silly me thinking that an airline would adhere to social distancing guidelines. Currently abroad a nearly full @AmericanAir flight and I’ve never felt less safe or cared for in my entire life.”
Well silly me thinking that an airline would adhere to social distancing guidelines. Currently abroad a nearly full @AmericanAir flight and I’ve never felt less safe or cared for in my entire life pic.twitter.com/sx5STfHKBI
— erin strine (@ErinStrine) April 25, 2020
In a March video AA customer experience VP Kurt Stache said, “Our gate agents can reassign seats at the gate, to create more space between you and other travelers. To help make this easier we’re blocking half of all middle seats. Once boarding is complete customers have the flexibility to move to another seat within their cabin. OF course there may be restrictions and this is not guaranteed.”
After seeing Strine’s post on social media American Airlines responded saying that the safety of their customers and crew was important and that she should check with crew members for a possible seat change.
Strine, who was flying to be with her family after the passing of her grandmother, said there was no need to check, because the flight crew announced over the loud speakers that the flight was nearly full and that passengers would not be able to change seats or social distance.
While she found the number of people booked on Flight 388 disturbing, Strine told WBTV, the CBS affiliate in Charlotte, that, “If they need to fill the flight to the capacity that they did on that New York to Charlotte flight, then you need to be handing out masks and requiring your passengers to wear them, for their safety and the safety of others.”
American Airlines cut back on more than 60% of its flights in April and is reportedly planning on suspending more in May.
American Airlines is updating and enhancing its cleaning procedures on board and will begin offering personal protective equipment to customers as it continues to prioritize customer and team member well-being in its response to coronavirus (COVID-19).
More thorough cleaning, more often
Improvements to cleaning procedures will begin this week and will expand to every mainline and regional flight over time.
Beginning in early May, American will build on its comprehensive cleaning program by expanding the cleaning procedures already used during longer stops to every mainline flight. This cleaning will use a disinfectant approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and includes:
In customer areas, tray tables, seatbelt buckles, armrests, window shades and seatback screens. It also includes wiping door and overhead bin handles.
In team member areas, enhanced galley cleaning, jumpseats and crew rest seats. The new enhancements add cockpit surfaces as well.
Late Monday afternoon, American Airlines released the following news release:
These measures build on new and expanded cleaning procedures American added in early March, including additional touchpoints in the cabin, increased provisioning of hand sanitizer and sanitizing wipes for crew members, and expanded fogging with an EPA-registered hospital-grade disinfectant in all public areas on aircraft. American is also expanding deeper cleanings and disinfection to all regional flights.
Personal protective equipment
In early May, American will start the process of distributing sanitizing wipes or gels and face masks to customers. This offering will expand to all flights as supplies and operational conditions allow.
“We are looking out for our customers’ well-being to give them peace of mind while they travel with us,” said Kurt Stache, Senior Vice President of Customer Experience. “We’re moving quickly on these enhancements and we’ll continue to improve the travel experience for our customers and team members as we navigate these times together.”
Flight attendant masks
Masks will be required for flight attendants during every mainline and regional flight beginning May 1. In addition, the airline has added a drawer in the galley on every mainline flight containing personal protective equipment, including masks for flight attendants and pilots, and other sanitizing items.
“Our team members on the frontline are truly going above and beyond during this time,” continued Stache. “Their commitment is nothing short of incredible and we will continue to work with them to make sure they have the equipment they need to feel safe.”
American’s ongoing commitment to safety
The latest changes build on American’s commitment to customer and team member safety. American’s cleaning practices have always met or exceeded all guidelines set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). All American Airlines mainline aircraft and most of our regional aircraft are equipped with High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters. In addition, the cabin air in all of our aircraft is changed approximately 15 to 30 times per hour, or once every two to four minutes, similar to the standard for hospitals.
At the airport, American has expanded the frequency of cleaning the areas under its control including gate areas, ticket counters, passenger service counters, baggage service offices and team member rooms. American is also using stanchions to encourage social distancing at gates and ticket counters. Some computers and kiosks at ticket counters have been turned off to create more space between customers, and digital signs at gates promote health and safety while gate announcements discourage crowding at the gate. Also, American works closely with airport authorities and government agencies to carry out our own extensive protocol for cleaning customer and team member areas.