Airlines Introduce New Cleaning Procedures

Secaucus, NJ – With shelter-in-place orders expiring and businesses reopening, airlines are implementing new safety standards in an effort to assuage traveler fears and get people back in the air. 

The initiatives follow new cleaning protocols that have been launched across the hotel industry, including at major brands such as HyattMarriott and Hilton. Now, American AirlinesDeltaUnited and others are joining in and revamping their hygiene practices in the age of COVID-19. 

American Airlines

American Airlines now requires all flight attendants on mainline and regional flights to wear face masks. A drawer in the galley of every mainline flight has been dedicated to personal protective equipment, including masks and sanitizing items. 

The company said it will start distributing face masks and sanitizing wipes or gels to customers this month. The initiative will be expanded to all flights as supplies and operational conditions allow. 

“We are looking out for our customers’ well-being to give them peace of mind while they travel with us,” said Kurt Stache, senior vice president of customer experience at American Airlines. “We’re moving quickly on these enhancements and we’ll continue to improve the travel experience for our customers and team members as we navigate these times together.”

Every aircraft will be thoroughly cleaned with EPA-approved disinfectants on a daily basis. High-touch customer and team-member areas will also be cleaned before and after every flight. Public areas of the aircraft will be disinfected with electrostatic spraying.

According to American, the cabin air in all aircraft is changed every two to four minutes, on par with hospital standards. Many aircraft are also outfitted with High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters that remove airborne particulates while in flight. Cleaning of gate areas, ticket counters, passenger service counters, baggage service offices and team-member rooms has been increased. Social-distancing signs have been posted at gates and ticket counters.

Delta Air Lines

The new “Delta Clean” initiative introduces elevated cleaning measures that the carrier will implement for the long term. 

“The highest levels of clean should not be reserved for times of crisis — customers deserve to feel confident and safe whenever they decide to travel,” said Bill Lentsch, Delta’s chief customer experience officer. “That’s why we are extending our overall safety focus to include our new standard of clean.”

The new guidelines include interior aircraft fogging with a high-grade EPA-registered disinfectant before every flight. An extensive checklist will be used during aircraft cleaning, with a focus on high-touch areas. Before each flight, a customer service agent and a flight leader will conduct a spot check to make sure the aircraft meets the Delta Clean standards. If not, a cleaning crew will be asked to return for additional sanitization. 

Starting May 4, Delta will require all customers to wear a face mask or appropriate face covering. Hand sanitizer will be available to customers at various touchpoints. In addition, the airline noted that employee workspaces will be regularly disinfected and treated with the same care.


Dubai-based carrier Emirates, which operated 3,600 flights weekly prior to the pandemic, implemented new measures late last month to ensure the health and safety of its employees and customers.

All cabin crew, boarding agents and ground staff in direct contact with passengers must don personal protective equipment, including protective disposable gowns over uniforms, safety visors, masks and gloves.

On flights, passengers are required to wear their masks and gloves throughout their journey from check-in until they disembark. Other protocols include the removal of magazines and other print reading material; meals are now limited to bento-style boxes, to reduce contact between the crew and passengers.

Carry-on items allowed in the cabin are limited to laptop, handbag, briefcase or baby items. All other items have to be checked.

All Emirates aircraft now undergo enhanced cleaning and disinfection processes after each journey; at press time, details on the new cleaning protocol were not outlined.


JetBlue is headquartered in Long Island City, N.Y., in the state that has been hardest hit by COVID-19. The airline, which operates more than 1,000 daily flights, is adjusting its hygiene protocols accordingly.

As of May 4, all passengers are required to wear a face covering. JetBlue crew members must also wear masks, along with medical-grade gloves during service delivery.

The carrier is limiting complimentary food-and-beverage service to a single snack offering and water. The sale of buy-onboard products, such as beer, wine, EatUp boxes and earbuds, will be temporarily suspended. The Pantry, JetBlue’s communal grab-and-go snack-and-beverage area, will no longer be available. Food-and-beverage offerings, however, will be served as part of the airline’s premium travel experience, JetBlue Mint. All glassware and mugs will be replaced with single-use cups.  

Since late March, the airline has limited the number of seats available on most flights. Rows near crew member jump seats have been blocked off to create buffer zones for crew and customer safety. 

All JetBlue aircraft are equipped with hospital-grade HEPA filters, and the cabin air is changed roughly every three minutes. The airline has intensified aircraft cleaning each night and extended ground time during the day for disinfecting purposes.

Southwest Airlines

Southwest Airlines unveiled new health measures on May 1. The initiative, titled “Southwest Promise,” aims to assure customers that safety has and always will be the airline’s top priority.

The new cleanliness standards apply to the airports, as well as the flights. Southwest spaces at airports, including ticket counters, gates and baggage claims, will be cleaned multiple times a day. In addition, Plexiglas shields are being installed at ticket counters and gate podiums, and airport signage and floor markers will be used to encourage social distancing in the gate areas.

As of May 2, boarding groups are being limited to 10 people. The number of passengers on each plane will also be reduced. Southwest Airlines said customers will be allowed to pick their own seats and certain sections, such as the middle seat, will not be blocked off so that families can sit together. Beverage and snack service have been suspended for the time being.

All customer-facing employees are required to wear face masks as of May 3. Customers will also be expected to wear face masks starting May 11. Southwest will have extra face masks and sanitizing wipes on hand if customers forget to bring their own. 

In mid-April, Southwest began using electrostatic sprayers to apply disinfectants and antimicrobial protectant to every interior surface of an aircraft. The sprays are designed to kill viruses and create a protective shield for 30 days. The surfaces are also cleaned nightly with broad-spectrum disinfectants and multipurpose cleaners. Particular attention is being paid to high-touch areas, including every tray table, armrest, seatbelt, window, air vent and button. Additional cleanings between flights have been added, and HEPA filters are used to circulate air and remove airborne particles in the cabin of every flight.

United Airlines

United has put together a coronavirus safety hub with the latest updates on what the carrier is doing to keep customers and employees safe. The new safety standards have been implemented in coordination with the airline’s medical director. 

Changes include the implementation of electrostatic spraying on all inbound long-haul international flights and mainline overnight aircraft at U.S. hubs. In June, electrostatic spraying will be expanded to all aircraft. In addition, all mainline aircraft are equipped with HEPA filters and customer touchpoints and surfaces are cleaned throughout the day, including a thorough wipe-down of lavatories, tray tables, window shades and armrests.  

All United crew members are required to wear face masks, as are all customers as of May 4. Customers who do not have their own mask will be provided with one. 

To minimize contact between crew and customers, United is switching to primarily prepackaged foods, sealed beverages and disposable cups. Buy-onboard service has been suspended, along with hot towel service and pick-up pans used to collect trash during flights. 

Social-distancing measures have been implemented at the airport, including signage and six-feet markers at ticket booths. Sneeze guards at check-in counters and gate podiums are expected to be added shortly. (Northstar)