Precautions in the Industry: What Steps are Airlines and Hotels Taking to Protect the Traveler

James Larounis

March 16, 2021


7 min read

Whether you travel one night a year, or over 100,000 miles a year, there’s no questioning that safety is of the utmost importance.

The industry is rising to this challenge. Airlines and hotels across the world are rolling out new cleaning programs meant to restore confidence among both leisure and business travelers. Let’s take a look at what these programs are, and how you're much safer today than you were at the start of the pandemic.

What Airlines are Doing

From an airline perspective, there’s a number of things they’re doing to help protect the traveler:

  • Increased cleaning of seats, tray tables, personal televisions, and other high-touch services onboard.
  • Introduction of electrostatic cleaning, which includes a spray that’s able to get into nooks and crannies where wiping can’t reach.
  • In lounges, additional spacing, pre-packaged food, and more frequent cleaning.
  • For check-in, encouragement to use kiosks to avoid human interaction.
  • Onboard, reduced food and beverage services, limited flight attendant contact, and blocked seats (on some airlines)
  • Pre-flight screening of passengers through mobile apps and in-person check-in
The standard for air travel has changed in the last few months. Nearly every airline now requires onboard mask usage.

What Hotels are Doing

For hotels, here’s what they’re doing to help keep the traveler safe:

  • Increasing usage of digital check-in to offer a contactless experience.
  • Seals on hotel rooms to let guests know their room has been sanitized.
  • Increased cleaning of rooms with highly disinfectant chemicals and sprays.
  • Reduced face to face interaction with staff.

Ranking The Airlines and Hotels

Based on feedback we’ve looked at from travelers, here’s where we think airlines stand overall at what they’re doing to keep travelers safe:

  1. Delta Air Lines
  2. American Airlines
  3. United Airlines
  4. Southwest Airlines
  5. Alaska Airlines

In particular, Delta has done a phenomenal job ensuring physical distancing on the aircraft. They’re now the carrier who has been blocking middle seats the longest, since the start of the pandemic. Most other airlines have removed these blocks as of this time.

In looking at hotels, here are the brands we think are doing the best job, among the biggest brands in the U.S.:

  1. Hilton Hotels
  2. Hyatt Hotels
  3. Marriott Hotels
  4. IHG Hotels
  5. Choice Hotels

Hilton has done a great job of partnering with major brands, such as Lysol, to ensure rooms are disinfected to proper standards, and they were among the first to ensure loyalty status was protected during a time of slumped demand.

When you enter a hotel in 2021, you’re likely to be asked to sanitize your hands before checking-in.

Your Risk of Getting Sick

When airlines introduced increased cleaning and new policies onboard, it wasn’t just to provide a giant marketing push — the chances of catching COVID-19, in particular, are extremely unlikely onboard.

According to Arnold Barnett, a professor of statistics at MIT, quoted in a CNN article over the summer, the chances are close to 1 in 4,300 — a truly low figure that shouldn’t scare anyone from traveling by plane. In fact, your chances are even lower when the middle seat is blocked — it falls to 1 in 7,700. 

Air travel is safe, and there’s no denying that catching something while in the air is very slim, but airlines still need to cover their bases and ensure they’re doing all they can to prevent transmission. With the rollout of the vaccine, forward bookings for the late spring and summer are beginning to show signs of recovery. Combined with the little risk of getting COVID onboard, the vaccine will help solidify the fact that air travel is safe. This is why travelers should book their future travels now to take advantage of reduced pricing -- in essence, book now and think later.

Will full body suits replace traditional business suites when traveling? (Source: Master the moment)

Are these measures working?

There’s a big difference between what airlines and hotels are doing to restore safety, vs. vs how much impact each of these measures have on truly moving the needle to increase safety.

Here’s what we do know:

  • It’s clear from the medical community that the COVID-19 virus has a much higher transmission rate through the air, vs. touch, so the increased cleanings onboard or in a hotel room don’t necessarily have a dramatic impact to reduce the spread.
  • In the end, travel providers are about increasing revenue and appearance of cleanliness, and most of this comes through press releases vs. actual practice. While a particular hotel chain may promise thorough cleanings of a particular room, there’s really no proof that this has actually been done for a customer, and many properties will simply fail on this standard, either by choice, or based on neglect.
  • When airlines and hotels do increase cleaning measures, this does restore confidence, regardless of scientific studies or actual practice. 

Final Thoughts

It’s no secret that airlines and hotels across the globe have been touting new policies, procedures and marketing pushes over the past few months. These organizations have been some of the hardest hit with the pandemic, and the recovery process will undoubtedly be long and slow. Travel will be forever transformed, and there will likely be a new normal in the coming years, featuring new cleaning methods on airplanes, new disinfecting regimens in hotel rooms, and new human-to-human interaction suggestions  as we begin to re-group and get back to our normal ways.

Whatever is in store for us, travel partners in nearly every corner of the club will be ensuring a safe experience for travelers as they take to the skies and roads during 2021 and beyond.

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