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How airlines are keeping you safe during the pandemic

Fly Well packs, pre-screenings, increased cleaning and more. Here's what to expect when you fly again.

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Portrait Of Man Wearing Mask Sitting In Airplane

As air travel begins to return, airlines have made a number of changes in line with public health guidance to keep you safe.

Airlines are now pre-screening passengers before check-in, reducing touchpoints, providing health kits and enforcing physical distancing where possible.

They're also checking to make sure you have the proper paperwork and clearance to cross state borders. Because while some are open, others still are not. Before you take off, check our Domestic Travel Restrictions guide for where you can and can't go.

Otherwise, here's a breakdown of how Australia and New Zealand's airlines are keeping passengers safe during the pandemic.

For a bigger picture, read our guide on what to expect when travelling during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Qantas and Jetstar

Australia's flagship carrier, along with its low-cost airline Jetstar, has established a Fly Well program. This involves implementing safety measures throughout the flight journey, from when you leave home to when you arrive at your destination.

A Qantas/Jetstar Fly Well pack

In general:

  • Regular cleaning of high-touch surfaces including check-in kiosks, lounges and the plane itself.
  • Social distancing is enforced at the airport, at the gate and on the plane.
  • Hand sanitisation stations at check-in, in the lounge, at the gate and throughout the airport.

At the airport:

  • Contactless check-in is recommended, either online or via the app. However, staff is still around at the airport to assist. During check-in, you'll be asked to confirm that you're symptom-free and that you haven't tested positive for COVID-19 or been in close contact with anyone who has. You will also have to acknowledge that you may not be allowed on board if you've made a false declaration.
  • Self-service bag drop is recommended. Again, staff is around to assist if you need.
  • Hygiene screens have been introduced at customer service desks, at check-in and at the gate.
  • Inside the lounge, your contact details are required, capacity limits and social distancing are in place and food is hosted, as opposed to being self-service.

At the gate:

  • Boarding passes are self-scanned to reduce touch points.
  • A Fly Well pack is provided to each traveller. This contains sanitising wipes for your hands and your seat and a face mask to wear on the flight. Wearing a mask is recommended but not mandatory unless you're flying to or from Victoria. Anyone under the age of 12 or with a medical condition that makes breathing difficult when wearing a mask is exempt.

On the plane:

  • Air conditioning systems are fitted with hospital-grade HEPA filters to remove 99.9% of particles.
  • The air is consistently refreshed.
  • There is a simplified in-flight service. Meals are included but in-flight entertainment systems and magazines are removed to eliminate non-essential contact on high-touch points.
  • Passengers are asked to limit movement around the cabin.

Virgin Australia

Full-service airline Virgin Australia is prioritising peace of mind when flying with a slew of health and wellbeing measures. It's particularly focused on social distancing and increased hygiene and is utilising the expertise of medical officers to direct its in-flight experience.

Virgin Australia FA

Image: Virgin Australia

In general:

  • Regular cleaning of high-touch surfaces such as check-in kiosks and the plane itself.
  • Social distancing is enforced at the airport, at the gate and on the plane.
  • Hand sanitisation stations at check-in, at the gate and throughout the airport.

Before you fly:

  • On domestic flights, liquids are limited to 500mL per item in carry-on, with a maximum of 2 litres allowed per person.
  • On international flights, liquids are limited to 100mL per item in carry-on with a maximum number of 10 items allowed.
  • All guests must fill in a pre-departure health questionnaire to be allowed to fly.

At the airport:

  • Contactless check-in is recommended, either online or via the app. However, staff is still around at the airport to assist.
  • The use of self-service kiosks is encouraged. Again, staff is still around at the airport to assist.
  • No cash payments are accepted, only credit and debit cards.
  • Lounges remain closed until COVID-Safe measures can be introduced.

At the gate:

  • Boarding passes are self-scanned to reduce touch points.
  • Boarding is staggered into zones to maintain social distancing.

On the plane:

  • Air conditioning systems are fitted with hospital-grade HEPA filters to remove 99.9% of microbes from the air.
  • Directional airflow and constantly refreshed air.
  • There is a simplified in-flight service. This means only water and a light snack is served with no hot or purchasable meals onboard. Guests may bring their own meals.
  • Staggered seating is implemented where possible when guests are travelling alone.
  • Passengers are asked to limit movement around the cabin and avoid gathering in aisles.

Regional Express (Rex)

Australian regional airline Rex flies the more remote routes across Australia. While its network is smaller than Qantas's and Virgin Australia's, its commitment to wellbeing is just as big.Rex airplane

Images: Rex

In general:

  • Enhanced cleaning of high-touch surfaces such as check-in kiosks, airplane cabins, service equipment and flight deck.
  • Social distancing is implemented at the airport and at the gate through the use of terminal signage.
  • Hygiene stations at check-in, at the gate and throughout the airport.

Before you fly:

  • On domestic flights, liquids are limited to 500mL per item in carry-on, with a maximum of 2 litres allowed per person.

At the airport:

  • Contactless check-in is recommended. However, staff is still around at the airport to assist.
  • Contact details must be provided before you fly for contact tracing purposes.

At the gate:

  • Physical distancing measures at the gate.
  • Body temperature tests are being conducted.

On the plane:

  • Air conditioning systems are fitted with hospital-grade HEPA air filters to remove 99.9% of microbes.
  • Enhanced onboard sanitisation and cleaning.
  • Modified in-flight service with all crew wearing gloves and masks during service. Pillows and blankets have been removed.
  • Improved seating configuration with alternating seating in place where possible.
  • All passengers must wear masks. Passengers are encouraged to bring their own, otherwise you can purchase one from the check-in desk. Exemptions are children under 12 and those with a medical condition that makes it difficult to breathe with a mask on.
  • Passengers are asked to limit movement around the cabin.

Air New Zealand

New Zealand's flagship carrier has responded to health advice in a timely fashion. Domestic services have almost returned to normal with no need for social distancing on most routes. However, enhanced hygiene and cleaning practices are still in place. International flights are running with strict rules in place to ensure the health and safety of passengers.

As of midday 12 August, Auckland has returned to Alert Level Stage 3. This means that social distancing is enforced at the airport and on planes, masks are required for flights departing Auckland and allocated seating will be in place to allow an empty seat between customers travelling alone. Food and beverage services are suspended on all domestic flights and in-flight menus and magazines have been removed. Auckland lounges are also temporarily closed.

When Auckland's Alert Level is lifted, the following applies:

Air New Zealand airplane

Image: Facebook

In general:

  • Enhanced cleaning of high-touch surfaces such as check-in kiosks, airplane cabins, service equipment and flight deck.
  • Hygiene stations in place at check-in, at the gate and throughout the airport.
  • Social distancing is no longer required at the airport, at the gate or on the plane for domestic journeys.

At the airport:

  • Online check-in is encouraged, though there will still be staff at the terminal to help if required.
  • Up-to-date contact details are required for contact tracing purposes.
  • Lounges are open and providing full food and beverage services with the exception of Wellington Regional and Christchurch Fly Thu cafe/Koru Express.
  • Fast Bag services are temporarily suspended.

On the plane (domestic):

  • Air conditioning systems are fitted with hospital-grade HEPA air filters to remove 99.9% of microbes.
  • There is enhanced onboard sanitisation and cleaning.
  • On domestic flights, social distancing is no longer required.
  • Facemasks must be worn by passengers. On international flights these will be replaced every 3-4 hours.
  • Crew is wearing gloves and masks when interacting with passengers. They will upgrade to PPE when dealing with unwell passengers.
  • While domestic planes may fly at capacity, seating may be staggered for health and safety purposes if possible.
  • The in-flight meal service and Koru Hour wine and cheese will resume.

On the plane (international):

  • Special meals can still be booked, however, extras such as a hot towel and pre-takeoff drinks have been removed.
  • Allocated seating is in place to allow additional space between passengers, with the exception of families and travel groups.
  • Unaccompanied minors are not being accepted on international flights at the moment.
  • Face masks are strongly encouraged but not mandatory. However, you may be required to wear them by local law in any airport that you pass through.
  • Connections from an international flight to a domestic flight within New Zealand are not permitted. All international arrivals are assessed by a government official and you may be required to go into 14 days of managed quarantine.

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