Air Canada is set to stop any kind of in-flight bar service with the exception of offering water to thirsty passengers as part of its efforts to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. A number of airlines have introduced similar policies to limit interaction between flight attendants and passengers, promote social distancing and reduce the risk of cross-contamination.
However, Air Canada might have just introduced some of the most extreme service restrictions and they may prove to be a template copied by other North American carriers.
“For the well-being of all customers and employees, as of March 19 we will temporarily adjust our on-board service as a health and safety measure in response to COVID-19,” the airline said in a statement without setting a date for when the restrictions might be lifted.
Service changes include:
- No blankets or pillows in Economy or Premium Economy on all flights
- Only blankets provided for Signature Class passengers on long-haul flights (pillows have been removed)
- Individual water bottles will replace a bar service on shorter flights, while water will also only be offered on longer flights and in all classes of travel
- Economy and Premium Economy Class passengers will get no food on shorter flights.
- Hot meals will be replaced with pre-packaged food on long-haul flights
“We recognize these service changes may impact your onboard experience and thank you for your understanding as we adapt to this evolving situation,” Air Canada says of the changes, warning passengers that they may need to plan ahead if they want to eat during a flight because many food concessions at the airport will also be closed.
Other airlines have also dramatically reduced their service routines in recent days. Southwest Airlines will no longer offer any food or drink on shorter flights, while only unopened snacks and water cans will be handed out on other routes. The change is designed to limit the amount of time that flight attendants spend in close proximity with passengers.
At Alaska and American Airlines, glassware has been removed from all cabins, drink refills banned and self-service snacks removed. In-flight recycling has also been stopped to reduce the need to sort through garbage.
Both Cathay Pacific and Eva Air removed pillows and blankets on flights to mainland China at the start of the outbreak in Wuhan, although both airlines have maintained a mostly complete service on longer flights.
The president of the union that represents flight attendants at American Airlines yesterday called on the carrier to further change its service routine in order to protect crew from the risk of catching COVID-19.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.