This month, six members of Covington had the privilege of a behind-the-scenes look at Delta Airlines’ safety measures at Richmond International Airport (RIC). Our tour began at the Delta ticket counter where hand sanitizer dispensers and social distancing floor markers are located throughout the check-in area.
Company-wide, all Delta employees have their temperature checked when they arrive at work. If their temperature exceeds 100.4° Fahrenheit, they may not enter the premises. At RIC, wearing masks is a requirement inside the airport and there are regular PA announcements and signage providing health and safety recommendations.
Blocking Middle Seats
Delta has committed to blocking center seats on all aircraft through September 30, 2020, and its CEO, Ed Bastian promised that the airline will extend the policy further, possibly into 2021. He said, “I’d rather add more flights back and more seats into the market in a safe way than trying to maximize the number of people you can put on an individual airplane.” Surveys revealed that less-crowded flights is the top reason passengers chose Delta.
Delta safety measures cap passengers at 50 percent of aircraft capacity in first class and 60 percent in coach class. If a family of three is traveling together, Delta allows the family to sit together in one row, including the middle seat, if the passengers wish.
Middle seats are marked in red on the seat map, indicating that they are blocked.
Delta has a reputation for being one of the cleanest airlines and they live up to it. Passengers can avoid any human contact by checking in at frequently sanitized airport kiosks or by using the Delta app on their mobile device.
All touchpoints such as ticket counters, boarding gates, Baggage Service Areas, and Delta Sky Clubs have hand sanitizer available. Delta cleans the gate seating, crew lounges, and airport employee break areas with electrostatic foggers multiple times daily. RIC also cleans the public areas of the airport with the same technology.
Security Checkpoint Changes During COVID
The TSA updated the security process to reduce touchpoints and improve safety. Passengers no longer need to present their boarding pass but must be checked-in for a flight to pass security. You scan your own identification – the TSA agent does not touch it – and the technology confirms that you are a ticketed passenger.
RIC is not using a separate TSA Precheck lane; everyone queues in one lane, however, if you have TSA Precheck, you may use the walk-through security rather than the scanner. If you are selected for a subsequent pat-down, you may ask the TSA agent to put on fresh gloves.
Delta’s Airplane Sanitization
Delta has significantly ramped up their cleaning of aircraft. First, before every flight, cleaning crews fog the inside of the aircraft with a high-grade disinfectant used in restaurants and hospitals. The spray particles are electrostatically charged so the disinfectant clings to every surface it touches, and it is immediately safe for passengers and crew to touch or breathe.
Next, a thorough wipe down of all cabin surfaces takes place. The checklist includes tray tables, seatback screens, seatback pockets, armrests, window shades, overhead bin covers, galley counters and floors, and lavatories. Delta flight crews are even empowered to hold the flight to call back cleaning crews.
You may be surprised to know that half or more of the air in the cabin is fresh air. The remainder is recirculated by high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) systems that filter out 99.9 percent of any contaminants.
Delta continues its tradition of allowing active military passengers to board first. First and Comfort class may board any time. The rest of the plane boards from the rear forward. On the jetway, there are social distancing markers, so passengers don’t bunch up in line.
As you arrive onboard, the flight attendants provide each passenger with a Purell wipe. Right now, Delta has suspended all meal service; however, on longer flights, Delta provides amenity kits with a bottle of water, 2 snacks, a napkin, and hand sanitizer. There is currently no alcohol service, but they expect to restart on international flights first.
If you need a blanket onboard, you can rest assured that it has been washed, dried, and folded by industrial-strength machines. Clean blankets remain stored in a plastic bag until you unwrap it.
Delta’s Mask Policy
Health experts assert that face coverings limit the transmission of coronavirus and Delta relies on that guidance to ensure they are taking all the necessary precautions for healthy flying. If a passenger doesn’t have a mask, Delta will supply one sealed in a pack with a Purell wipe.
Effective July 27, Delta safety measures require anyone who requests an exemption from wearing a mask on board to have a medical evaluation at the airport before boarding. The virtual consultation is done privately with Delta’s medical partner STAT-MD, based at the University of Pittsburg Medical Center. Any passenger who plans to request an exemption should arrive at the airport early because the evaluation could take up to an hour.
Travel with Delta is cleaner than ever, and RIC was sparkling. When you are ready to fly, contact Covington to plan your business or vacation travel.