Coronavirus: What Are the New Rules at Airports? Depends Where You Are

Travellers, airlines and airports are grappling with a hodgepodge of rules put in place during the pandemic that will make flying different in almost every country

Reuters
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In this Dec. 11, 2019, file photo, an Emirates jetliner comes in for landing at Dubai International Airport in Dubai, United Arab Emirates
In this Dec. 11, 2019, file photo, an Emirates jetliner comes in for landing at Dubai International Airport in Dubai, United Arab EmiratesCredit: AP Photo/Jon Gambrell, File
Reuters

Governments, airlines and airports around the world are putting in place new measures to help protect travellers and allow for a return to the air during the global coronavirus pandemic.

In Thailand, you cannot have food or water in flight and must wear a mask. In Malaysia and Indonesia, the plane needs to be half-empty. In the United States and Europe, it's not mandatory for airlines to leave the middle seat open.

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Measures to stem the spread of coronavirus have changed how people travel, as Beijing resident Feng Xueli, 26, found when she took a domestic flight this month. The aircraft was full - allowed under the Chinese rules.

"We needed to wear a mask during the flight and there were PA announcements basically asking for our cooperation with these anti-virus measures put in place, which made me a bit nervous," Feng said. "You also need to go through a lot of temperature checks and security checks when you leave the airport."

Travellers, airlines and airports are grappling with a hodgepodge of rules put in place during the pandemic that will make flying different in almost every country. Here is a look at some of the new rules from around the globe.

UNITED STATES

There are no government-imposed measures in the United States, though all major U.S. airlines require face coverings and several are capping the number of seats sold or leaving middle seats empty. Many airports are also requiring face coverings. Major U.S. airlines have also endorsed temperature checks at airports by the U.S. Transportation Security Administration, which so far has implemented safety measures such as increased spacing in security checkpoint queues.

EUROPEAN UNION AND UNITED KINGDOM

The European Commission last week proposed airlines and airports require passengers to wear masks, and reorganise check-ins, dropoffs and luggage pickups to avoid crowds. Travellers should keep luggage and movement in the cabin to a minimum. The guidelines are not binding, but they may help form a framework in the bloc as restrictions are lifted. The United Kingdom is observing E.U. trade and travel regulations until the end of 2020.

CHINA

The aviation regulator is requiring extra ventilation and sterilisation of airplanes and airports. Passengers are required to fill out an electronic health declaration before boarding and are asked to sit apart from each other onboard if possible. Temperature checks are required for every passenger and workers like cabin crew and security officers are offered protective gear. Passengers need to wear a mask throughout the flight.

JAPAN

The government has directed airlines to make in-flight announcements about health measures and to distribute health information cards and questionnaires. It has also asked airport staff to wear masks, but they are not mandatory for passengers. There is no requirement to keep the middle seat empty.

SOUTH KOREA

The aviation regulator is requiring travellers' temperatures be checked in the airport. Airport authorities ask travellers to stand at least 1 metre (3 ft) apart in line, and are furnished with hand sanitiser. Korean Air Lines Co Ltd is seating passengers as far apart as possible, conducting additional temperature checks on international travellers and requiring all domestic passengers to wear masks, with a few exceptions such as children under 2 years.

QATAR

At the airport, staff and passengers are required to pass temperature checks and disinfection procedures, with high contact areas disinfected every 10 to 15 minutes. Qatar Airways is encouraging social distancing on board when possible, especially on flights with lighter loads, and will require passengers to wear masks.

MALAYSIA

The government is requiring airlines carry a maximum of half the usual number of passengers on board, with some exceptions on flights between peninsular Malaysia and states in Borneo. At the airport, passengers must remain 1 metre apart from each other for social distancing, including markers in queues. Malaysia Airlines requires passengers to wear masks onboard.

INDONESIA

Airlines can only carry half the usual number of passengers as part of government requirements to leave 1 metre between them. Air crew are required to take the temperature of passengers 30 minutes before landing. Passengers must wear masks and fill in a health awareness card.

THAILAND

The aviation regulator requires airlines to leave at least one seat empty between passengers, who are required to wear surgical masks onboard. No food and beverages will be served during flights and passengers are not allowed to eat or drink. In an event of emergency, the cabin crew may provide water.

PHILIPPINES

The government requires passengers to wear masks upon entering the airport, mandatory temperature checks and for social distancing measures to be observed at queuing points. Security screenings should be done with minimal contact. Passengers need to fill out an electronic health declaration form. 

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