Adjusted schedules to Japan, Palau, Saipan and Micronesia to begin end of March
A sharp decline in travel demand resulting from heightened anxiety over COVID-19 outbreak has prompted United Airlines to make corresponding adjustments to its regional flight schedules effective at the end of March through the end of April.
"This adjustment comes after the recent announcement that United is taking additional steps to reduce its international and domestic schedules as a result of the weakened demand," United said in a press release.
United also announced that the Island Hopper will operate on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from March 29 through April 27. The Wednesday flight will not be landing in Kwajalein between April 1 and 30.
The first two suspected cases COVID-19 in Palau and Marshall Islands were cleared over the weekend. The persons under investigation tested negative for the dreaded virus.
In Hawaii, the state Department of Health announced a second case of "presumptive positive" COVID-19 involving an elderly man who lives on Oahu who recently traveled to Washington State. Officials said he fell ill on March 2 and returned to Hawaii on March 4 when he went to an urgent care facility. During his initial visit, a COVID-19 test was not done.
“As a result of the decline in demand for travel in our region, United is temporarily adjusting our flight schedules for Guam. We are monitoring the situation closely and are committed to working with the visitors bureaus and stakeholders in the region to rebuild demand for travel and return to normal operations as soon as possible," said Sam Shinohara, United managing director for airport operations for Asia/Pacific.
Noting a high level of travel uncertainty and panic, United said change fees are waived for any domestic or international booking made between March 3 and March 31. The waiver applies to all tickets, all fare types, all destinations, all points-of-sale and all travel dates available for sale, United said.
“We will continue to communicate closely with our partners, our island’s leaders, and our customers to keep them informed of any changes that may arise. We thank our customers for their understanding and continued support,” Shinohara added.
As the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak continues to evolve rapidly, United said it prioritizes the safety of its customers and employees.
"Our teams are in daily contact with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the World Health Organization (WHO), federal agencies and other global health organizations to share the most up-to-the-minute information. What's more, United has a team of in-house medical experts, including an industrial hygienist who reviews and tests cleaning products and a corporate medical team who are on-call, around the clock. United also partners with MedAire, an organization that gives crewmembers ready access to an emergency department doctor for advice and assistance," United said.
"The dynamic nature of this outbreak requires us to be nimble and flexible in how we respond, provide service and protect our customers and employees. Here are some of the ways we are taking action."
United reassured customers that all aircraft are cleaned at a variety of touchpoints throughout the day. "The cleaning procedure for flights includes a thorough wipe-down of all hard surfaces touched by customers and employees — lavatories, galleys, tray tables, window shades and armrests. United uses an effective, high-grade disinfectant and multi-purpose cleaner."
When CDC advises the airline of an employee or customer who has traveled onboard and who is potentially exhibiting coronavirus symptoms, the aircraft is taken out of service and sent through a full decontamination process that includes our standard cleaning procedures plus washing ceilings and overhead bins and scrubbing the interior, United said.
United said its aircraft are equipped with state-of-the-art circulation systems, similar to those found in hospitals, which use a high-efficiency filter to circulate the air and removes up to 99.7 percent of airborne particles.
United said it will soon start using an electrostatic fogger to disinfect the air and surfaces within the cabin on all international arrivals into our U.S. hubs including Hawaii and Guam.
To limit person-to-person contamination, United said it has instituted inflight procedures. Instead of refilling used cups, passengers are given fresh cups. Flight attendants wear gloves during food and beverage service as well as during pickup, in all cabins. Beverages are handed directly to passengers instead of allowing them to take their own from the tray. All tableware, dishes, cutlery, carts and glassware are washed and sanitized. Hand sanitizers are provided at all airports.
"We've added supplies for our crews on segments flown to Alert Level 2 zones* and upward: gloves, masks, alcohol-based hand sanitizer, sani-com wipes, foaming hand soap, and disinfectant wipes as supply becomes available," United said.