Coronavirus Information: Actions we’re taking to keep guests & employees safe

Image from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Updated 4:30 p.m. March 12

We’re now offering more flexible travel options to give our guests peace of mind. These include:

No change or cancellation fees for:
    • Tickets purchased on/before February 26, 2020 for travel through April 30, 2020.
    • New tickets purchased between February 27 and March 31, 2020.

We’re continuously working with medical experts and federal agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to evaluate our preventative processes. We’re also tracking & answering frequently asked questions as best we can.

FAQs about changing your trip:

What if I used miles?  If you used miles to purchase your ticket for a ticket that falls within one of our flexible travel policies we’ll re-deposit the miles in your Mileage Plan account.

How long does it take to retrieve the miles back into My Account? Your miles will be back in your account in 24-48 hours.

What if I used a companion fare? If the expiration date for your companion fare discount has passed, it will be forfeited.  If your companion fare discount would have still been valid for ticketing on the date you canceled, please contact Reservations and we will issue a new certificate.

What if I purchased a nonrefundable First Class, main, or award ticket? If you purchased a nonrefundable First Class, main, or award ticket for travel that falls within one of our flexible travel policies, you may change without fee or, cancel your trip and deposit the funds into your My Account wallet or credit certificate via email.

What if I purchased a Saver fare? If you purchased a Saver fare that falls within our flexible travel policy, you may cancel your trip and deposit the funds into your My Account wallet or credit certificate via email.

What do I do if I’ve already paid the change fee? If you were recently charged a fee for a change or cancellation made to a trip that now falls under one of our flexible travel policies, please contact Reservations. We’ll take care of the change fee to your original form of payment.

What if I’m traveling after April 30th? For tickets purchased on/before February 26, 2020, our flexible travel policy only applies to travel through April 30, 2020. We will continue to evaluate the situation and may make adjustments as warranted.

What if I purchased my ticket through Expedia? Or another third-party website? If you purchased your tickets through a third party, such as Expedia, another travel agency, or another airline, contact them directly for assistance. 

Related:

*Originally posted flexible travel option information on Feb. 27


Clearing the air at Alaska Airlines

Posted: 3 p.m. PT March 6

We’ve been fielding questions from guests and employees alike about air quality onboard aircraft. While Dr. John Lynch, one of our University of Washington medical directors, has advised coronavirus is not thought to be airborne, our planes are equipped with systems that contain two HEPA, or High Efficiency Particulate Air filters. They’re the same kind of filters found in hospital operating rooms.

“It’s not a self-contained tube with the same air for a six-hour flight,” said Constance von Muehlen, senior vice president of maintenance & engineering. “The air in a cabin comes from the top and flows out from your feet. In fact, there’s a large portion of air that comes directly from outside. Within a three-minute period you get completely new air in the entire cabin.”

If guests want more filtered air, they can simply open the vent above them. It’s important to note that the flight deck, galley areas, and lavatories get air directly from outside the aircraft. That air also gets directly exhausted outside.

Alaska Airlines has one of the newest fleets in the country which ensures our planes have the latest filtration technology in use. Our filters are changed according to manufacturer guidelines.

Studies have shown due to the frequency of cabin air recirculation, that the air onboard planes can be better than the air found in many office buildings.


Is it safe to travel? Top questions answered by health & industry experts

Posted: 3 p.m. PT March 6

Every day seems to bring new developments related to the coronavirus, and the uncertainty of the disease is unsettling. Many people are understandably anxious about the virus, so we’ve compiled answers to the most-asked questions we’re hearing from guests with our health and industry experts about COVID-19. 

First, our hearts go out to those around the world who’ve been impacted by the virus. We want you to know, we’re doing everything we can ttake care our guests and employees and keep everyone safe in the air and on the ground, including:  

    • Offering flexible travel options for our guests who later decide not to travel because of concerns related to the coronavirus. Visit alaskaair.com for further details. 
    • Enhancing our cleaning processes on all our aircraft, in our lounges and at the airport. Watch a video of our cleaning process. 
    • We’re slightly adjusting our onboard experience, such as temporarily not refilling used cups and discontinuing onboard recycling for two weeks, in order to reduce touching passenger-handled materials. See other actions we’re taking to keep guests & employees safe.

Q&A with health and industry experts:

Is it safe to travel in the United States? Specifically, to and from Seattle?

Yes, as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and expert medical doctors have advised, it is safe to fly to and from Seattle and across our network. We are following all CDC guidance and going above & beyond to ensure that our guests and employees are safe. The risk to healthy people remains low

As everyone knows, the COVID-19 outbreak continues to evolve. We’re having ongoing discussions with infectious disease experts from the University of Washington and the CDC to determine if it is safe to travel. The guidance from the CDC has not changed since the director said that the risk to the general public remains low and encourages Americans to go about their lives, including travel to and from California, Oregon and the state of Washington.  Max Tidwell, Vice President of Safety & Security 

What parts of Alaska Airlines’ planes get cleaned after each flight?

We’ve always had robust cleaning processes on our aircraft and will continue using disinfectants that are effective against viruses to ensure the safety of our guests and employees. As an extra level of precaution, we’ve implemented an enhanced aircraft cleaning process between our flights that are on the ground longer than an hour at our hubs. We’re focusing more attention on the areas of the cabin which are touched most frequently such as arm rests, seat belts, tray tables, overhead controls including air vents, light buttons, call buttons and exterior and interior door handles to lavatories. All our aircraft that remain on the ground overnight get a thorough cleaning. In addition, our crews are also cleaning front and back of seats, window shades and handles to carry-on compartments– Celley Buchanan, Director of Operations Support Services 

Do Alaska Airlines’ airplanes use HEPA filters in the air vents? If so, how effective are they and how many planes have them?  

Yes. Every Alaska Airlines aircraft uses High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters as part of our recirculation air systems. HEPA filters are believed to be effective to 99.95% or greater in removing particulate contaminants in the air. Through a combination of outside air and recirculated air, the air in the cabin is completely replaced by our air flow system approximately every 2 to 3 minutes.  Constance von Muehlen, Senior Vice President of Maintenance and Engineering 

We know that the HEPA filters in Alaska Airlines aircraft are robust and effective at filtering many pathogens from the air. But does this coronavirus float around in the air?

At this time, there is no evidence that the virus floats in the air leading to infection farther away. Current understanding about how the virus that causes coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) spreads is largely based on what is known about similar coronaviruses. The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person. 

  • Between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet). 
  • Through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. 

It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads. The virus is fragile and does not live long on surfaces.  – Dr. John Lynch, M.D., M.P.H. 

If I travel, what are some things I can do to prevent getting sick?

Great question!  Probably the most important thing you can do to prevent getting sick while traveling is to wash your hands frequently.  This means washing your hands not only before eating and after using the bathroom, but also multiple times throughout the day.  Another helpful recommendation is to wipe down high touch surfaces, like tray tables and arm rests. – Dr. John Lynch, M.D., M.P.H.

Are children or older adults more susceptible to the virus that causes COVID-19 compared with the general population?

There is a lot more to learn about this virus but so far it looks like it doesn’t peer to be very harmful for children.  For most healthy adults this infection may be more like the flu.  At the same time, it does seem to be much more dangerous for older adults and people who have medical issues with their hearts, lungs and kidneys or who may be immunosuppressed. – Dr. John Lynch, M.D., M.P.H.

How effective is wearing a mask or gloves?

The CDC, who advise the country on public health, recommends against people who are healthy wearing a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory illnesses, including COVID-19. A facemask should be used by people who are ill or show symptoms of having the virus. This is to protect others from the risk of getting infected. Just like masks, gloves are not recommended if the person is not contacting blood or bodily fluids.  We know the people who often wear gloves do not wash their hands is much, which is the most important thing we can do to prevent getting COVID-19, influenza or many other infections. – Dr. John Lynch, M.D., M.P.H.

What is Alaska Airlines doing to sanitize its gates, Hubs?

At every airport we serve, we’re encouraging our employees to sanitize work areas before and after they perform tasks, including gate and check-in counters, kiosks, bag sizers and stanchions. The safety of our guests and employees is our top priority. We are also working with our janitorial partners and teams at airports we serve to set up additional cleaning runs to sanitize work surfaces. – Wayne Newton, Vice President of Airport Operations & Customer Service 

Amid the COVID-19 outbreak, the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) announced it’s taking extra measures to safeguard the health of its employees and passengers at its facilities. Actions include increasing cleaning frequency at high-touch point areas, including escalator handrails, elevator buttons and ticketing kiosks and installing more hand sanitizer at security checkpoints, jet bridges, boarding gate locations and ground transportation centers. 

What about in Alaska’s Lounges?

We’re operating as safely as possible in our lounges, taking every precaution we can to reduce the spread of germs. At the reception areas, we’ve paused the use of fingerprint scanners and added multiple hand sanitizer bottles at the check-in desk. We also encourage you to hold out your boarding pass to our staff, rather than passing your phone or boarding pass to them. At our buffet area, you’ll continue to see our team members wearing gloves. We have also increased the frequency that we wipe down surfaces with sanitizing solution and wipes. At the buffet, we’re frequently replacing serveware (especially tongs and serving spoons) and at the bar we’re only pouring into new glasses. We’re also encouraging guests to #FillBeforeYouFly. We’ve reduced the water towers to prevent personal water bottles from touching the spouts. Instead, we encourage you to use one of our water bottle filling stations or head to the bar and we will fill up your water bottle for you. – Alex Judson, Lounge Product Manager 

John Lynch, M.D., M.P.H., is a board-certified physician and medical director of Harborview’s Infection Control, Antibiotic Stewardship and Employee Health programs. Dr. Lynch is also a UW associate professor of Medicine and Allergy and Infectious Diseases. He earned his M.D. and M.P.H. from the University of Washington. He conducts research on healthcare-associated infections. At the UW School of is a board-certified physician and medical director of Harborview’s Infection Control, Antibiotic Stewardship and Employee Health programs. Dr. Lynch is also a UW associate professor of Medicine and Allergy and Infectious Diseases. He earned his M.D. and M.P.H. from the University of Washington. He conducts research on healthcare-associated infections. At the UW School of Medicine. 


See how we’re taking our cleaning process to the next level

Posted: 2 p.m. PT March 4

In the last couple of weeks, we have seen the coronavirus (COVID-19) situation shift rapidly in the United States. Our hearts go out to those around the world who’ve been impacted by the virus. 

The director of the U.S. Center for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) who advise the country on public health, has said that the risk to the general public remains low and encourages Americans to go about their livesthat includes travel to California, Oregon and the state of Washington. 

We want you to know: We’ve got you covered. 

We’ve always had robust cleaning processes on our aircraft and will continue using disinfectants that are effective against viruses. As an extra level of precaution, we’ve implemented an enhanced aircraft cleaning process between our flights that are on the ground longer than an hour at our hubs. We’re focusing more attention on the areas of the cabin which are touched most frequently:  

    • Arm rests  
    • Seat belts  
    • Tray tables   
    • Overhead controls: air vent, light button, call button  
    • Exterior and interior door handles to lavatories   

All of our aircraft that remain on the ground overnight get a thorough cleaning. In addition to what’s mentioned above, our crews also add these areas:

    • Front and back of seats
    • Window shades
    • Handles to carry-on compartments



Actions we’re taking to keep guests & employees safe

Updated 7:30 p.m. March 2 | Posted: 8 a.m. PT March 2

Every day seems to bring new developments related to the coronavirus, and the uncertainty of the disease is unsettling. Our hearts go out to those around the world who’ve been impacted by the virus.

It can be tough to keep track of what’s going on – and maybe even tougher to decide whether to make or keep your travel plans.

First things first, we’ve always had robust cleaning processes on our aircraft and will continue using disinfectants that are effective against viruses. We’re also working closely with health experts from the University of Washington and following guidance from the Centers for Disease Control to help keep our people and guests safe.

What we’re doing, starting March 2:

On the plane

  • We’re enhancing aircraft cleaning between flights and will continue to evaluate our cleaning procedures. This is in addition to the regular cleanings between flights.
  • We’re slightly adjusting our beverage service and will temporarily not be refilling used cups, including in First Class. We encourage you to #FillBeforeYouFly to help us reduce our onboard waste. Our regular food and beverage service is not affected.
  • Flight attendants may wear gloves during our food and beverage service.
  • We’re also suspending warm towel service in First Class. We’ll reevaluate this again in two weeks. We will discontinue onboard recycling for two weeks, in order to reduce touching passenger-handled materials. We’ll continue to collect and recycle materials on Horizon Air’s simplified beverage service of water and orange juice.
  • We’re encouraging guests to travel with hand sanitizer or anti-bacterial wipes out of an abundance of caution. Wipes can be used to clean armrests and tray tables. Note: The use of commercially available cleaning wipes on our leather seats can deteriorate the top coat of the leather. The wipe might look dirty, but it’s actually the leather dye color that’s coming off.

At the airport, in our lounges & our company offices

  • We’re deploying hand sanitizer to all airports and company offices for use in our crew and break rooms, lounges, ticket counters and gates.
  • We’re pausing the use of fingerprint biometric scanner in our lounges effective immediately.
  • We’re in communication with our major airports to ensure appropriate cleaning for public spaces.

Looking after our guests

  • We’re offering flexible travel options for new ticket purchases between February 27 and March 31, 2020 for travel through February 28, 2021. View full details at alaskaair.com.
  • Based on advice from medical experts in infectious disease, we’re urging guests not to travel if they’re sick with an acute respiratory illness.
  • It never hurts to wash your hands. The CDC recommends washing your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and clean running water. Don’t forget the backs of your hands, between your fingers and under your fingernails, and dry your hands with a clean towel or let them air dry.

Learn more at cdc.gov/coronavirus/.

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