What measures has Southwest been taking to ensure a safe flight during the COVID/19 pandemic?
Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Southwest took on a commitment to protect the safety and well-being of both passengers and employees through the Southwest Promise, a series of measures and recommendations:
- Aircraft cleaning and cabin environment.
- Social distancing measures and recommendations.
- Mandatory travel forms.
- Mandatory face masks/coverings.
- Flight change/cancelation policy.
Aircraft Cleaning and Cabin Environment
Southwest implemented stringent cleaning procedures, which are aligned with guidance from the CDC. In addition to tidying between flights, daily, each aircraft is undergoing a cleaning process that lasts more than six hours. Southwest’s cleaning crew applies on every surface of the aircraft an electrostatic disinfectant and an anti-microbial spray that is killing viruses on contact and forms an anti-microbial coating. A broad-spectrum disinfectant is used to clean tray tables and lavatories before every flight.
All aircraft are equipped with HEPA filters that remove 99.97% of airborne particles and an air circulation system that, every 2-3 minutes, makes a full exchange of cabin air by constantly introducing fresh, HEPA filtered air from outside the plane.
Social Distancing Measures and Recommendations
Southwest understands the importance of removing unnecessary touchpoints and encourages all customers to maintain a physical distance and limit hand-to-hand contact with others.
To support a safer interaction between customers and employees, Southwest has taken the following measures:
- Plexiglas barriers at the ticket counters, gates, and baggage service offices.
- Limited onboard food and beverage service (a limited selection of non-alcoholic beverages and snacks) only on flights over 250 miles, when available. As always, you’re welcome to bring your own snack and non-alcoholic beverage onboard.
- New boarding process in groups of ten and only on one side of the boarding poles.
To reduce interpersonal contact, Southwest recommends the following:
- Get a Mobile Boarding Pass through the Southwest app to avoid exchanging papers with others.
- Arrive at the airport earlier to allow sufficient time for new check-in and security processes.
- Hold up your credentials for verification and avoid passing them to an employee.
- Maintain physical spacing through the airport and in the gate area.
- At the gate, scan your boarding pass instead of handing it to the Southwest Gate Agent.
Mandatory Travel Forms
Southwest is closely monitoring the government restrictions for travel and notifies customers of these restrictions as soon as possible, offering maximum flexibility and working to accommodate customers to the best of its ability. Each state or country may have different requirements (varying documentation, testing, quarantine, etc.), and Southwest offers detailed information on its COVID-19 Travel Information page.
As new requirements for entering into the U.S. require special procedures through the airline, Southwest will verify the satisfaction of these travel requirements at the airport and before boarding:
- Each passenger is required to submit an attestation (written documentation) to the U.S. Government, through Southwest, that they are COVID-19 negative or have recently recovered from COVID-19.
- Each passenger is required to bring evidence of either of the following:
- A qualifying COVID-19 negative viral test result taken within 3 calendar days preceding the flight’s departure to the U.S. (physical or electronic documentation).
- Recent recovery from COVID-19, which must be demonstrated with both physical or electronic documentation of a COVID-19 positive viral test result obtained within the 90 days preceding the flight to the United States and a signed letter on letterhead from a licensed healthcare provider or public health official that you have recovered from COVID-19 and are cleared for travel.
Southwest will deny boarding to any passenger that does not meet these requirements.
Mandatory Face Masks
As per federal law, each passenger must wear a mask at all times in the airport and throughout the flight. Refusing to wear a mask may result in denial of boarding, removal from the aircraft, and/or penalties under federal law. Southwest provides masks to all customer-facing employees, and they are required to them anytime while serving customers.
Flight Change/Cancelation Policy
Southwest’s long-standing policy of no change or cancellation fees, unique in the airline industry, applies as follows:
- If you cancel your reservation at least 10 minutes before the scheduled departure of the flight:
- Non-refundable tickets (Wanna Get Away fare) can be applied to future travel for up to one year from the original purchase date.
- Refundable tickets (Anytime and Business Select fare) can be applied to future travel, or you can ask for a refund to your original form of payment.
- If Southwest cancels a flight, all passengers are eligible for a refund, regardless of fare type.