Airlines and travelers adjusting to new normal

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- The coronavirus outbreak has forced airlines and airports to make a number of adjustments when it comes to passenger health and safety.

Much like the security impact 9/11 had on air travel, passengers are now learning of a new normal and procedures to help reduce the risk of the spread of COVID-19.

"Preparations at the Fresno Airport are continuing to welcome back passengers to a comfortable, safe and clean airport," said Vikki Calderon with Fresno Yosemite International Airport.

According to Calderon, the airport has installed hand sanitizer stations and plexiglass barriers to help keep passengers and employees safe.

"Passengers will notice we have some physical separation expansions in place on the way to boarding gates and baggage claim," Calderon said.

But there are no industry-wide standards on how to protect passengers, flight attendants, and pilots. For example, the airport is recommending passengers wear face masks. Some airlines require them to board; others do not.

Some airlines are leaving middle seats open to allow social distancing, but one passenger shared video with Action News showing his jam-packed American Airlines flight from Dallas to Fresno.

"Dang, they supposed to be social distancing. Are they going to move me to a different seat? But they couldn't because it was crowded. The lady said I got to sit there, the seats was already packed," said traveler Timothy Blaylock.

United Airlines is implementing new cabin cleaning procedures that include electrostatic fogging of each plane before each flight.

United will also load planes from back to front, so passengers only pass by empty seats. The airline says it's open to new industry-wide protocols.

"If those sorts of efforts materialize, we'd love to be part of that conversation but frankly we're not waiting around for other people to make decisions about what we should do," said Josh Earnest, United Airlines Chief Communications Officer.

Passengers may also be worried about the recirculated air on planes, but the air regularly passes through filters.

Also, the coronavirus travels by droplets that people cough or sneeze; that's why it's important to try and maintain social distance, wear a mask, wipe down any surfaces you may touch, and keep washing your hands.
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