SAN JUAN – JetBlue announced Wednesday several updates to its Safety from the Ground Up program for its crewmembers and customers. The airline said it is extending its commitment to "seat distancing" for flights "through at least Oct. 15" by blocking the purchase of middle seats in rows where parties are not traveling together.
The company is also extending its “Go Back and Forth with Confidence” initiative through Oct. 15, which provides travel flexibility by waiving change and cancellation fees for new bookings. In addition, it is prohibiting masks with vents or exhalation valves, and will no longer allow customers to claim exemptions from wearing a face covering.
“We continue to hear from our customers that added space onboard and travel flexibility are incredibly important to them during this time and we want them to know we are listening because we are all in this together, ”said Joanna Geraghty, JetBlue's president and chief operating officer.
JetBlue is New York's“ Hometown Airline ”and a leading carrier in Boston , Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood, Los Angeles, Orlando and San Juan. JetBlue carries customers across the U.S., Caribbean, and Latin America.
The company’s safety program is focused on four areas: “healthy crewmembers; clean air and surfaces; more space, fewer touchpoints; and travel flexibility, ”it press release reads. As part of its “more space, fewer touchpoints” focus, its seat-distancing policy “provides assurance that customers will not be seated directly next to someone they don't know.” Middle seats are blocked on its Airbus aircraft, and on its smaller Embraer 190 aircraft, aisle seats are blocked.
JetBlue said it was the first airline to require customers to wear a face covering during the entire travel journey, including at the airport .
“In line with information from the Centers for Disease Control and JetBlue's own medical experts, starting August 10, the airline will no longer allow the use of face masks with vents or exhalation valves” nor customers to claim exemptions from wearing a face covering.
Our policy is meant to offer the strongest level of protection for everyone given all that we currently know about how COVID-19 is transmitted, "Geraghty said.
If a crewmember identifies a face covering or mask that does not appear sufficient based on its features or potential lack of protection, they will provide a mask for the customer to use instead, the airline assured, adding that customers “who do not agree to wear a face covering will not be allowed to board any aircraft , and customers who do not follow crewmember requests to wear a face covering while in flight will be reviewed for future travel on JetBlue. ”
Passengers two years and younger will not be required to wear a face covering if they cannot maintain one.
JetBlue partnered with Honeywell for the company's UV Cabin System, which uses UV-C lights over aircraft interior surfaces, “helping to reduce viruses and bacteria.”
JetBlue also listed technology in use meant to further reduce common touchpoints. They include:
- Mobile app check-in with touchless bag tag integration, avoiding the need to touch kiosks
- Automated bag drop, avoiding close proximity with crewmembers
- Touchless self-boarding, avoiding crewmembers handling boarding passes and personal devices
- Mobile device remote control pairing for inflight entertainment, avoiding the use of in-seat remote and / or touchscreen menus onboard
JetBlue explained that its program puts in place safeguards across four areas.
Steps to ensure the health and safety of JetBlue's crewmembers include:
- Conducting temperature checks for our pilots and inflight crewmembers
- Providing paid sick leave and additional time off programs so crewmembers do not come to work sick
- Following company-wide protocols for reporting cases of the coronavirus, notifications and return to work clearance
- Providing disinfectant kits for pilot use on the flight deck
- Requiring fac e coverings for all crewmembers while boarding, in flight, and when physical distancing cannot be maintained
Using disinfectant and maintaining healthy air onboard its aircraft. Steps include:
- More frequent disinfecting of common surfaces like kiosks and counters inside our airport terminals
- Providing hand sanitizer throughout terminals and disinfectant wipes to customers on board upon request
- Increasing aircraft cleaning before every flight and overnight, including surfaces that are touched most like tray tables
- Using electrostatic sprayers to disinfect the inside of our aircraft
- Piloting Honeywell's UV Cabin System as another layer of protection against viruses and bacteria
- Filtering cabin air through hospital-grade HEPA air filters with cabin air completely changing about every three minutes
To increase physical distancing and to decrease touchpoints, JetBlue is implementing the following steps:
- Requiring face coverings for all customers during check-in, boarding and in flight
- Blocking middle seats on larger aircraft and aisle seats on smaller aircraft for t hose not traveling together (at least through October 15)
- Providing the most space between each row of seats in coach of any U.S. airline * and spacious seating on all aircraft
- Requiring all travelers to complete a health declaration
- Providing touchless check-in and boarding experiences using the JetBlue mobile app and self-boarding gates for many of our flights
- Implementing a back-to-front boarding process for most customers to minimize passing in the aisle
- Streamlining onboard service to minimize physical interactions and maximize safety and comfort
- Using your personal device as a remote for seatback screens on select plans
JetBlue says it “has adjusted policies allowing customers to choose to travel when they are comfortable”:
- Waiving change and cancel fees for tickets purchased by October 15 to give customers confidence when booking
- Extending Travel Bank credit expirations to a 24 -month period for credits issued between Feb. 27 and June 30
- Providing 24/7 support and award-winning customer service