American Airlines Shows Off New Cleaning and Safety Procedures

Airline limits selling of middle seats but some passengers are wary

NBCUniversal, Inc.

Seeking to reassure passengers that flying is safe, American Airlines will keep at least 50% of middle seats empty to allow more social distancing and has been deep-cleaning planes after every flight.

American allowed NBC 5 access to a plane parked at Terminal C at DFW International Airport to demonstrate its new procedures.

As passengers enter the airport, they’ll notice extra workers wiping down everything, including chairs, counters and ticket kiosks.

Scott Gordon / NBC 5

Airline workers wear masks and their temperatures are taken as they arrive.

New plexiglass shields have been installed at ticket counters.

The interior of planes are being sprayed with an aerosol chemical-grade disinfectant in addition to normal cleaning.

"We do our enhanced cleaning with more focus and emphasis on the high-touch-point areas for our customers, which wasn't done before,” said American Airlines airport services manager Martha Gonzales said. “This is done on every aircraft on arrival."

Scott Gordon / NBC 5

Inside the terminal, almost everyone wears masks, which are required to get on an American plane.

But some passengers said the airline isn't doing enough.

Will Vickers, a waiter and actor from New York, flew Wednesday from Laguardia Airport to Birmingham with a stop in Charlotte.

As he left New York, passengers gathered dangerously close together as they boarded, he said.

Scott Gordon / NBC 5

"They rushed us to get on the plane,” he said. “It was shocking."

On the plane, he was assigned the middle seat.

"I thought I was going to be OK for a little while,” he said. “And then just one person came and sat beside me and then another person and another."

He said his second flight, on a smaller plane, was even more crowded.

The airline said it's doing its best to allow social distancing.

"The middle seat is blocked,” Gonzales said. “We have 50% of our middle seats blocked to give that extra space to our customers."

The airline adds it will use middle seats “only when necessary.”

American said the airline had spoken with Vickers and that, in fact, at least half the middle seats were empty on his flights and followed the new policy.

Vickers said with passengers seated shoulder to shoulder, it's impossible to stay six feet apart.

"I'm so afraid I contracted something,” he said.

Vickers, now staying with family in Alabama, said he hasn’t experienced any symptoms.

Gonzales said the airline would continue doing everything it can to keep people safe.

"We care about your safety and your well-being,” she said. “We try to match and exceed the CDC precautions to ensure you'll be flying with us soon."

While employees must have their temperature checked, the airline does not check passengers.

And while masks must be worn to board, passengers who take them off after taking their seats won’t be challenged if they give a reason for not wearing one, a spokeswoman said.

*Map locations are approximate, central locations for the city and are not meant to indicate where actual infected people live.

Contact Us