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An Interview With United’s CCO on Upcoming Coronavirus Changes

An Interview With United’s CCO on Upcoming Coronavirus Changes

WebMD recently sat down with United Airlines’ Chief Communications officer John Earnst about the upcoming changes due to the coronavirus. Here’s what we learned so far:

The new safety measures implemented for airline travel

  • They will require all passengers and crew members to wear masks
  • People will board from the rear of the plane (to help keep passengers socially distant)
  • Flight attendants will hand out sanitizing wipes (for your hands or the area around your seat)
  • The “vast majority” of flights will only be half full
  • Minimized interactions with flight attendants
  • 24-hour advance notification if your flight is more than 70% full (with a list of alternative flight options so that passengers can change their itinerary)


CORRECTION: This article originally stated that flights would only be half full. The exact quote from the video is that the “vast majority” of flights are half full.

View Comments (13)


  1. htb

    May 28, 2020 at 4:38 pm

    “Flights will only be half full” and “you will be informed of the flight is more than 70% full”.
    So if there are not enough volunteers you’ll be denied boarding? Or is it more like “50% full unless it’s fuller”?

  2. rylan

    May 28, 2020 at 4:44 pm

    Interesting couple of items…

    ‘Minimized interaction with flight attendants’ = Don’t expect any sort of on board service

    Flights only half full, yet they will notify you if it is 70%… interesting math here. So it sounds like they’re going to sell tickets anyway and if they fill up a flight they’ll let you know. And who knows what the alternatives would be.

  3. CaptHolic

    May 28, 2020 at 9:10 pm

    Who cares? Just get international routes flying again! I have been trapped outside the country for just over 100 days now…

  4. floridastorm

    May 29, 2020 at 2:21 pm

    Good luck with all of these changes and flying 70% full. I can’t see many passengers putting up with this stuff especially for any flight that is more than 2 or 3 hours. Some business people may have to endure. But, most of the non business public will say it’s not worth it. When the airlines can’t pay their bills and are close to bankruptcy watch how fast they drop all of this.

  5. Dr.Ells

    June 2, 2020 at 11:51 pm

    Uuufff, especially boarding from the back of the plane first. Can you imagine having bought Business/First, or being Gold or higher, and NOT being able to place your bags in the overhead bin?! You see, the flight attendants would not be able to help. All these airlines are going to have to return to honoring their loyal, as well as upper-paying, customers.

  6. jjmoore

    June 3, 2020 at 1:00 pm

    Airlines should have one focus: Fill up the planes. Period. If you are scared of this, then my recommendation to you is DON’T FLY!!

    This COVID-19 scam is a disaster, and most people are too ignorant to realize what the governments of the world are trying to pull over on us. Shameful to say the least, but if we don’t open our eyes now, our economy as we know it will be finished for a generation. While we are all suckered into the COVID-19 trap, George Soros and the Chinese are working on the plan to initiate the next world order, and that doesn’t bode well for a democratic capitalist society that we are all used to.

  7. kirkwoodj

    June 6, 2020 at 6:47 am

    3 flights in past week. would estimate all 80-90% full. Received a Purell packet on one flight. Minimal FA contact is true. I did receive advance notice about all flights being crowded, but with so few flights scheduled, there’s not a real alternative.

  8. PHL

    June 7, 2020 at 8:33 pm

    Board from rear of plane? So everyone will be going out onto the ramp to board up a staircase?

  9. jamesteroh

    June 8, 2020 at 7:56 am

    Hopefully if it’s an aircarft where they can board through door 2L they will allow First to still board first so passengers will have a shot at bin space. If they have to board through the front door then I hope the FA’s keep an eye on the bins in first. It’ll be a real pain if first has to board last and can’t find bin space because lazy coach passengers put their bag in the first open bin they could find

  10. Mint Fresh

    June 9, 2020 at 5:27 am

    2020: The year the human immune system (that has worked for tens of thousands of years) just decided to stop working, I suppose? Sigh…

  11. andrewku

    June 17, 2020 at 4:49 am

    Having been on a few flights, not too pleasant even in J. No hot tea of coffee not good. Not sure where risk is if FA wears disposable gloves while serving. Probably not a bad idea even post COVID. Leisure travel not going to happen until restaurants open up and flight frequency increases. Lack of connections really inconvenient.

  12. CEB

    June 17, 2020 at 8:38 am

    Even if one ignores the SARS-COV-2 direct concerns, the fact is that prices are higher, service is lower, and routes are incredibly circuitous. All of these things depress the desire to fly and limit the market in and of themselves. Not likely that travel will recover quickly in any form under these conditions.

  13. PaulMSN

    June 17, 2020 at 5:21 pm

    Wow, a full-on conspiracy theorist who flies.

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