American Airlines shows off new cleaning, safety measures; health officials slam airline for resuming full flights

ByRebeccah Hendrickson WPVI logo
Tuesday, June 30, 2020
American Airlines shows off new cleaning, safety measures
American Airlines showed off its new cleaning and safety measures on Tuesday.

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Ahead of what's expected to be the busiest travel week at Philadelphia International Airport since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, American Airlines showed off their new safety measures for customers and crew members on Tuesday.

The new safety measures start at the check-in counter. Before travelers can print a boarding pass, they'll have to go through a health assessment.

In the terminal, certain seats are roped off for social distancing and the crew has a new message for anyone who wants to get on board: if you are unwilling to wear a face mask, you may be denied boarding.

On the plane, the crew has a new cleaning process that includes using a virus-killing electrostatic spray every week.

"It's really important that we get it right and I think what you've seen today are the various layers of security we have throughout the airport and the airport experience," said Jim Moses, the vice president of Northeast hubs for American Airlines.

Starting Wednesday, the airline says it will allow flights to be booked at 100% capacity, which means the middle seat will no longer be open.

"That was put in place long before we had the various layers of safety and security that we have in place today," said Moses.

The decision drew sharp criticism from Senator Bernie Sanders, who questioned the CDC and Dr. Anthony Fauci about the idea.

"I know as we've said and I've continued to repeat it that avoiding crowds, staying distant, and when in a situation like that, wear a mask. I think in the confines of an airplane that becomes even more problematic," said Fauci during a hearing of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee on Tuesday.

The airline thinks people should still feel safe. It says customers will have the option to switch flights for free if the plane is close to capacity.

While travel for the holiday week will be busy with 50,000 people expected to fly, that's still only about 30% compared to this week last year.

"We absolutely feel that they should feel safe," said Moses.

American Airlines also says it is doubling its average flights per day starting July 7 to about 207 daily departures. That's still only about half of the travel it was offering in 2019.