What is electrostatic spraying? How does a HEPA filter work? How is contactless check-in being done by airlines, hotels, and vacation rentals?
Travel is changing. As the world continues to navigate the coronavirus pandemic, responsible travel means being knowledgable about how our actions — and importantly, those of the airlines, hotels, and ride sharing companies we choose — impact the further spread of the coronavirus.
Having a safe travel experience means being informed: doing everything possible to prevent the further spread of COVID-19.
Our team created this glossary of terms related to safe, clean travel so you can quickly understand the words and technologies being used in the new normal of flying, riding, and staying.
You might see these terms on the coronavirus information pages of a travel brand’s web site. You’ll definitely find them on the pages of Safe Travel Guide.
Some of the terms may be obvious , while others may be brand new or take on a new meaning in travel in the coronavirus era.
Whatever the case, we hope this glossary helps you safely and confidently evaluate when and how you travel next.
Have a suggestion for a term we should add? Email firstname.lastname@example.org with your input!
Click on a term below to see its definition:
Technology that removes particles from the air.
On airplanes where space is confined, air is most often filtered via HEPA filters which remove at least 99.9% of airborne particles that pass through them.
At hotels, air filters are typically part of the HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) system. Certain hotels have committed to changing air filtration filters more frequently during the coronavirus pandemic.
Checking baggage requires multiple airline employees to touch your bag. We recommend carrying on baggage whenever possible, but some airlines have limited the carryon baggage allowance to encourage safe distancing during boarding and deplaning.
If you need to check a bag, some airlines have self-serve kiosks where you can print your own baggage tags. Alternatively, you can use the attended bag drop, where airline employees and passengers are usually separated by plexiglass shields.
At baggage claim, airports have installed floor decals to encourage social distancing. Airlines recommend only one person from a family or traveling group goes to the baggage carousel to retrieve bags if possible.
At hotels, most brands have suspended bellhop services, encouraging guests to carry their own bags to prevent contact.
Airlines have adjusted boarding procedures to to minimize potential contact between passengers. This varies by airline but often includes:
- Allowing fewer people to board simultaneously
- Boarding row by row from back to front
- Suspending priority boarding, or revising elite member boarding rules
- Enforcing social distancing on the jet bridge and in the aircraft aisles
- Reseating passengers whenever necessary to ensure proper distancing on board
Boarding process where no human contact is required. Passengers scan their own boarding passes and are separated from gate agents by social distancing and/or plexiglass shields. For international flights, passports often still need to be physically checked by an airline employee.
Contactless Flight Check-In
Flight check-in process where no human contact is required. Accomplished via the airline’s web site, mobile app, or kiosk at the airport.
For those checking baggage, some airlines have self-serve kiosks where you can print your own baggage tags. Alternatively, you can use the attended bag drop, where airline employees and passengers are usually separated by plexiglass shields.
Contactless Hotel Check-In
Hotel check-in process where no human contact is required. Accomplished via mobile app or kiosk. In some hotels like Hyatt, smartphones can be used as the room key at certain properties. In others, card keys are provided via kiosk to limit contact.
Also called disembarkation, the process of all passengers exiting the aircraft.
Certain airlines now coordinate deplaning, cueing passengers when it’s their time to exit the aircraft. This is a measure to ensure social distancing at the very end of a flight.
A cleaning process where an electrostatically charged mist is sprayed onto surfaces. A large handheld device shoots an electrostatic spray of disinfectant atomized by an electrode inside the sprayer.
Applying hospital-grade disinfectant in this manner produces a fine mist that covers and wraps around surfaces, coating them much more effectively than if done without the sprayer.
Airlines like JetBlue and hotels are using electrostatic sprayers extensively to ensure comprehensive disinfecting during the pandemic.
Elevators are an important area in travel safety, especially at hotels. Small, enclosed spaces where it’s difficult to physically distance, elevators have buttons and surfaces which are touched by many.
Hotels are cleaning elevators more frequently, with a particular focus on buttons, and limiting the number of guests allowed in an elevator simultaneously.
If you are physically able, the stairs or an escalator are better options when available.
NPR provides smart tips on riding elevators safely, even when you’re not traveling. Luxury hotels envision touchless elevators where one can wave a keycard and have their floor selected.
Face coverings worn by airline and hotel employees, and by travelers.
Nearly every airline now requires both employees and passengers to wear a mask while on board. Some airlines require them at the airport as well. Exceptions are made for eating and drinking. Some airlines provide masks, though all encourage passengers to bring their own.
Most hotels now require employees to wear masks. Guests are encouraged to wear masks in public areas like the lobby, though few hotels require guests wear them.
Laws and/or reopening policies in certain cities require anyone wear a mask when in an indoor public area.
Floor Decals encourage social distancing but guiding pedestrian traffic at airports and hotels. Airlines and hotels install them in areas where queuing and congestion is likely to happen to ensure people are sufficiently distanced to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Hand sanitizer is important to safe, clean travel. While frequent hand washing is the most effective way to prevent the spread of coronavirus, it’s not always possible at the airport or on an airplane.
Hand sanitizer is the next best thing, killing viruses when applied correctly.
Always choose a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
Many airlines and hotels provide hand sanitizers at ticket counters, boarding gates, check in desks, and in lounges. Some distribute it on board as well.
A High-efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filter is an efficiency standard of air filter used on most airplanes. HEPA filters must remove at least 99.9% of airborne particles that pass through them. During the coronavirus pandemic, many airlines are changing these filters with increase frequency. More information at IATA (PDF download) and The Points Guy...
Hospital Grade Disinfectant
Heavy-duty disinfectants typically used by hospitals to kill microbes like Hepatitis B, MRSA, and salmonella. Airlines and hotels now use these in their cleaning procedures during COVID-19 to disinfect surfaces. Example of industrial-grade disinfectants include Viraclean and MD-125.
Hotels and cruise ships have also used a spray-on coating called Premium Purity from ACT.Global which “self-cleans” the surfaces on which it is sprayed via a pho-catalytic reaction.
The most frequently touched surfaces on airplanes and in hotels which should receive extra disinfection and are top-priority for cleaning.
On airplanes these are the seat, armrest, tray tables, seat belt buckle, entertainment screen stowage area, and toilets.
In hotel guest rooms, these are the light switches, door handles, TV remotes, thermostats.
In hotel public areas these are the check-in counters, kiosks, elevator buttons, door handles, public bathrooms, room keys and locks, escalator and stair handrails, and fitness center equipment.
The enclosed, movable connecting bridge that passengers walk through to board or disembark an airplane. It attaches the airport gate to the aircraft.
A notoriously confined and crowded space, airlines have had to change boarding and cleaning procedures to ensure social distancing on jet bridges amidst COVID-19.
To accomplish this, airlines often:
- board fewer customers at the same time to increase physical distance during boarding
- monitor and enforce proper physical distancing on a jet bridge
- frequently clean and disinfect jet bridges, sometimes with electrostatic sprayers
At hotels and home rentals, keyless entry allows guests access to their room with a digital key on their mobile phone. This allows for contactless check-in.
Keyless entry is done in the following ways:
- Using the hotel company’s mobile app: the iOS or Android app serves as the mobile key which is scanned to enter the guest room. Large international hotel companies like Marriott and Hilton use this method in some hotels.
- Using a web app: logging into a mobile web app provides a digital key to open the room. No app download is required. Many independent hotels use this method for keyless entry.
- Using a numeric keypad: often used at home rentals like Airbnb, the private, numeric code is sent to the guest just before check-in. While contactless, it requires the guest touch the door keypad to enter the code.
Self-service kiosks allow customers to perform their own check-in on most airlines and at certain hotels.
Kiosks provide a contactless check-in experience, though checking baggage can still require human contact.
Airline kiosks allow passengers to verify their identity, print a boarding pass, select seats, enter frequent flyer information, and tag luggage prior to security.
Hotel check-in kiosks allow passengers to verify their identity, enter hotel loyalty program information, enter room preferences, and receive room key cards.
While kiosks are being cleaned more frequently during COVID-19, travelers should remember that kiosks are high-touch surfaces used by hundreds of people each day. We strongly encourage travelers wash their hands or use hand sanitizer after kiosk use.
Overhead compartments — and in particular the overhead doors and handles — are high-touch areas on an airplane, as many passengers store carry-on baggage in those areas.
Most airlines treat overhead bin handles as high-touch surfaces, sanitizing them after each flight.
Some airlines have reduced capacity or disallowed storing baggage in the overhead bins during COVID-19 to discourage passenger contact during boarding and deplaning.
A flight operated directly by an airline, rather than an alliance, code-share, or subsidiary.
In the context of safe travel, some airlines only commit to enhanced cleaning or providing face masks on mainline flights where they operate things completely.
A transparent physical barrier made of plexiglass used to separate employees from customers during COVID-19.
In airports, most airlines have installed plexiglass shields at all staffed service counters, including check-in desks, gate counters, boarding areas, and baggage service counters.
At hotels, plexiglass shields are increasingly installed at reception and concierge desks.
Also called physical distancing, social distancing is a public health method which requires physical distance be maintained between people to prevent the spread of contagious disease. In this United States, the recommended distance is 6 feet (2 meters), while the World Health Organization recommends at least 1 meter (3 feet).
Social distancing rules also prevent people from gathering in large groups.
In air travel, social distancing can be difficult given the confined space of an aircraft. Airlines reduce the number of passengers per flight, block seats to ensure space between passengers, and allow passengers to further separate themselves from one another on board.
Hotels are encouraging physical distancing by placing signs and floor decals in public areas; limiting the number of people allowed in common areas like elevators, lobbies, and restaurants; and not allowing staff to enter guest rooms when guests are present.
Measuring customers’ temperatures prior to boarding an aircraft or entering a hotel. Temperature screening is a way of detecting who might have the coronavirus, as fever is a symptom.
Many airlines, hotels, and countries now require temperature checks before entering a hotel, airplane, or going through airport security. Notably, the United States has not mandated it.
Temperature screenings are often done using either a thermal camera or an infrared thermometer, which is held a few inches from the customer’s forehead. Those with a fever over 100.4 aren’t allowed to board.
Some medical experts are skeptical about whether temperature checks are effective in preventing the spread of COVID-19 given between 25 and 50 percent of those with the virus are asymptomatic.
Ultraviolet Light Cleaning
Cleaning process that uses intense germicidal ultraviolet (UV) light to disinfect a room or surface. Primarily used by hospitals, the Westin Houston Medical Center first utilized UV cleaning in March 2020 by deploying robots made by Xenex which destroy microscopic bacteria and viruses.