Getting Out There: Stepping into the Delta CareStandard

Guest written by Ray Hourani, Director, Travel Air Operations at AAA Travel Northeast.

Airlines have made major adjustments to their safety and sanitation protocols in response to COVID-19. Middle seats have been left empty on many flights, and masks have become the standard travel accessory. AAA Travel takes pride in our industry knowledge, and we try to experience everything our members come across as they choose to travel. Recently, I took a firsthand look at what members can expect when flying Delta.

I was a part of a small select group, greeted at the Delta terminal inside Logan Airport for an intimate look at the new processes and resources greeting travelers as they board a flight. This all-access permission was in part to AAA’s partnership with Delta. I was rewarded an insider’s view of the ways the airline has adjusted terminal and boarding procedures. My behind the scene tour, hosted by Charlie Schewe, Director of New England Sales at Delta Air Lines, included a terminal tour and an onboarding to observe new sanitation protocols.

From the time you step foot in the check-in lobby, through security, at the gate, onboard, and through the baggage claim at your final destination, the Delta CareStandard is how Delta is making sure you can feel confident in your choice to travel. From providing more space to extensive cleaning, Delta has put in place more than 100 measures to ensure a safe experience for our AAA members and travelers. I was able to experience these measures during my tour.

Along with all travelers now flying through Delta gates, I was greeted with a sanitation cart. There, I could find hand sanitizers, disposable masks, wipes and guides to help me prep for departure. Markings and signs throughout the terminal aid travelers in social distancing. Staff, masked and in some instances placed behind plexiglass barriers, greeted everyone in their always positive fashion, and while I was not able to see their smiles, their eyes showed happiness as passengers returned to air travel.

From my first steps into the airport, I could see the many layers of protection in place to give me peace of mind. There was a touchless check-in experience, and signs pointing to the Fly Delta app to access a digital boarding pass. It was reassuring to know that cleanliness was being applied to more than just the plane itself.





Plexiglass shields had been installed at all Delta check-in counters, in Delta Sky Clubs, and at gate counters, and social distancing markers were visible in the check-in lobby, Delta Sky Club check-in, at the gate, on seats at the gate, and on jet bridges to encourage all of us on the tour to stand apart.

I was never more than a few feet away from a hand sanitizer station. They are available for use in check-in lobbies, at the gate, in Delta Sky Clubs and on all Delta-owned jet bridges. The Delta Sky Club had an offering of pre-packaged food, similar to onboard snacks and other pre-packaged options like yogurt, breakfast energy bars, salads, hummus and pita chips, and sandwiches.





 

Charlie distributed customer care kits, available at all Delta ticket counters and gates, that offer a hand sanitizer wipe, a mask and an informational card that details how they are transforming the industry standard of clean.

As we boarded our plane, I noticed subtle but important changes. First, Delta has adjusted the boarding process to encourage more space for safer travel, boarding all flights from back to front. I’ll point out that this reduces instances of customers needing to pass one another to reach their seats. This process limits boarding groups to 10 customers at a time to minimize contact with others.

I will also point out that through at least Jan. 6, 2021, Delta will ensure more space for customers on all aircraft by blocking the selection of middle seats and limiting the number of customers per flight to reduce the total number of customers on board. On routes where increased demand is putting customer counts close to the full limit, the airline will look for opportunities to upgrade to a larger aircraft or add more flights to the schedule.





My tour group was able to see how each flight is thoroughly sanitized prior to boarding using electrostatic sprayers. Following this process, cleaning crews complete an extensive checklist of cleaning procedures using this same high-grade disinfectant to wipe down personal and common areas of the cabin. If an aircraft doesn’t pass a spot check before travelers board, the teams are encouraged to hold the flight and call back the cleaning crew.

Charlie taught us that air on all aircraft is completely recirculated 10 to 30 times per hour with fresh, outside air through industrial-grade HEPA filters, which extract more than 99.99% of particles, including viruses.

Delta is bringing a message of moral responsibility to their staff as well. During our tour, it was pointed out that the airline flight attendants wear masks while they fly, but also on their bus route to and from the airport. The attendants wear masks in hotel lobbies, and it has become a part of their uniform. Charlie Schewe shared with our tour group that Delta has put a big focus on wearing masks, as it is important to the success of all safety measures.

I’ve been in the travel industry for decades. I remember how multiple historic events have impacted our industry. With all that in mind, I believe the safety protocols that Delta has in place makes it very safe to fly. They are committed to making sure everyone wears a mask, are offering a limited contact check-in, and have placed HEPA air filters on board their planes. It is my belief that Delta has not only improved processes but that they continue to look for ways to enhance measures even further.

As you prepare to get out there, AAA is here to help. Our travel advisors are dedicated to understanding the safety measures needed to have a successful and healthy vacation. Many of our advisors are returning to travel themselves, boarding planes, or packing cars as they head out across the globe. Our network of advisors is dedicated to making every AAA Travel experience a great memory.  I encourage you to chat with a AAA Advisor before you venture out. Together you can review your travel plans, and ensure you’ve thought of everything. To speak with your advisor, call 1-800-222-7448. Tell them Ray sent you.