How Airlines Are Trying To Protect Passengers From Coronavirus

The coronavirus is crushing thebiggest names in U.

S.

air travel.

In 2019 U.

S.

airlines carried an estimated 926million passengers a 43 percent increase from 2003.

But that demand hit a wallin March 2020 after U.

S.

airlines reported an enormous dropin bookings amid the spread of thecoronavirus outbreak.

Health officials say air travelis causing viruses and bacteria to spread around theworld faster than ever before.

Air travel does hastenthe speed with which infectious disease spreadsaround the world.

Airplanes are efficient vectors forgerms and bacteria and viruses to spread.

The dawn of air travelmeant that pandemics can happen, they can happenmuch more quickly.

Airlines at the center ofthe epidemic have come under intense scrutiny for the safetyand cleanliness of their cabins.

Demand is just fallingoff and it's alarming.

This is the worst crisis thathe has ever seen in the airline industry.

Airlines aregoing to stop flying.

An airline withoutrevenues is toast.

Delta Airlines plans to reduceseat capacity by 70 percent and announced the carriers secondquarter revenue would be $10 billion less than thesame period the year prior.

American, United, JetBlue andSouthwest are also parking some of their planes, freezinghiring and asking employees to take unpaid time off.

To combat the pandemic airlineshave imposed new safety regulations and are usingenhanced cleaning techniques inside their plane cabins.

But is it enough? And howdo airlines keep their planes clean? Airlines face an uphill battlekeeping their planes clean.

Mosquitoes carrying diseases likemalaria and yellow fever can sneak aboard planes.

To combat bugs and otherpests the World Health Organization and theInternational Civil Aviation Organization have advised airlinesto use aircraft disinsection, a term that refersto the process of spraying an aircraft cabinwith insecticide while passengers are on boardor after they've disembarked.

But it's primarily the job ofthe cabin cleaning crew to prepare your seat forits next flight.

Cabin cleaners may be inside aplane for as little as seven minutes and as longas four hours.

It all depends on thestandard set by each individual airline and the amount oftime before the next flight.

Deep cleaning when every inchof the plane is cleaned, happens overnight when an aircraftis parked at an airport.

Though cleaning standards varyairline to airline, most carriers follow afew basic procedures.

Cabin cleaners today generallyare outfitted with protective clothing and disposablegloves, similar to what you see here.

A single aisleairplane like the Boeing 737 seats up to 230 passengers andmight have between three to six people cleaning the cabin, plus others cleaning the galleys and lavatory.

The bigger Boeing 747 has morethan 400 seats and there could be as many as20 people cleaning the plane.

Depending on the amount of timethey have before the next flight cabin cleaners will pickup trash like used tissues and half-eaten sandwiches, cleansurfaces like tray tables, seat cushions and lavatorieswith an anti-bacterial solution and evenvacuum the carpet.

Despite these efforts, some peopleare so concerned about germs that they cleantheir own seats.

In July 2019, Naomi Campbell'sYouTube page launched a video of her airport routine.

U.

S.

airlines have some employees whoclean their planes but to save money, the vast majorityof cabin cleaning work is outsourced to dozens ofcompanies across the U.

S.

In 2018, nearly two-thirds ofcabin cleaners worked for third-party companies.

Airlines often award contractsto the lowest bidder.

I mean, essentially what theairlines have setup through contracting is they forced thecontractors to compete for who can provide the service ofcabin cleaning, as well as some of the other airlinejobs, at the lowest bid.

And that means who can pay theworkers the least to do the work because that's how thecontractors cut their costs.

There are dozens of companiesinvolved in cabin cleaning at the almost 500 commercialairports across the country.

One of the biggest cabincleaners is ABM, a facility management firm and a publiccompany that works with leading U.

S.

airlines and cleansmore than 1.

3 million planes annually.

In 2019, ABM had aviation revenueof $1 billion, an almost 20 percent increase from 2016.

Aviation revenue at ABM camefrom cabin cleaning, but also from other services likeparking, passenger assistance and catering logistics.

In 2015, United Airlines launchedUnited Ground Express, a subsidiary owned by thecarrier that provides customer service, cargo services andcabin cleaning for some flights.

The other top cabincleaning companies in the U.

S.

are a mix of private andpublic companies that offer a range of services fromde-icing airplanes to baggage handling.

Those companies include DGS, now known as Unifi Service, Prospect, Prime Flight, G2 and Menzies Aviation.

U.

S.

airlines are ramping uptheir approach to the coronavirus outbreak, cleaning theircabins more often and with strongerhospital-grade disinfectants.

Coronavirus spread rapidly aroundthe globe, killing more than 43, 000 people and infectingmore than 870, 000 as of April 1, 2020, accordingto Johns Hopkins University.

According to the CDC, Covid-19, is believed to spread mainly when people are in closecontact with each other and by respiratory droplets from aninfected person who coughs or sneezes.

The virus can surviveon a hard surface, such as plastic for up to 72 hoursand on cardboard for up to 24 hours, according to aMarch 2020 study.

And according to the CDC, new research indicates that coronavirus RNA, the genetic materialof the virus that causes Covid-19, was found onsurfaces of the Princess Cruise ship up to 17days after passengers disembarked.

Vicki Hertzberg is a biostatisticianand the lead author of a separate study on howinfection can spread aboard an airplane.

She says the odds ofcoming into contact with an infected person is relativelylow, but transmission increases when an infected person issitting in the row in front of you, the row behindyou and the two seats on either side of you.

What Hertzberg refers to asyour “perimeter of risk.

” Your probability of infection increasesthe longer you're in close proximity with somebodywho's infectious and the place where that's going to makethe most difference is if you're seated closely tothem on an airplane.

To keep the airclean as it circulates most aircraft used by American, Delta and United are equipped with HEPA filters similarto the ones used in hospitals that provide a complete airchange about 15 to 30 times per hour.

This isn't to be confused withthe mist you sometimes see before takeoff – that's condensationfog caused by the airplanes air conditionerbeing switched on.

In response tothe pandemic U.

S.

airlines started using enhancedcleaning procedures on planes to combat thespread of the virus.

Since the advent of coronavirusand Covid-19 they've all elevated what they do.

Some airlines are usingfogging systems to disperse sanitizing spray throughoutthe cabin.

They have elevated the intensityand strength of the cleaners that they are using.

Take Delta.

In addition to its normalcleaning program Delta Airlines is using high-grade EPA registereddisinfectant to wipe down common surface areas ingalleys and lavatories.

The airline has also added afogging process used in many health care facilities that pushesout an EPA registered disinfectant on alltrans-Pacific and trans-Atlantic inbound flights.

Beginning April 1st, 2020, allof Delta's domestic flights will undergo the samefogging process overnight.

And by early May every planein Delta's network will be fogged before every flight.

American Airlines and United Airlinessaid they are also using high-grade disinfectants andmultipurpose cleaners on all touch points, includingwindow shades, armrests and tray tables.

Aircraft that remainovernight at an airport receive an enhancedcleaning procedure.

United said that because ofthe coronavirus it will soon start using an electrostatic fogger, which is essentially a pump sprayer to disinfect theair and surfaces within the cabin on all internationalarrivals into the U.

S.

While viruses can live on asurface for hours or days, bacteria can sometimes surviveon surfaces for months.

In 2014, Dimer UVC innovationslaunched the GermFalcon, a disinfecting machine for airplaneinteriors that looks like a large food anddrink cart with wings.

The device is pushed by anoperator and uses ultraviolet C lamps to eliminategerms and bacteria.

The company claims it can kill99 percent of germs on a plane in about three minutes.

UVC is proven in hospitals tobe effective against all known disease causing pathogens, that'sviruses, that's bacteria and in hospitalsits superbugs.

On airplanes were primarilyfocused on viruses like influenza, norovirus, Ebola andright now we're dealing with coronavirus.

According toKreitenberg, it can take about 30 to 45 minutes forthe GermFalcon to disinfect a wide-body plane for a narrow-bodyplane like a Boeing 737 it can takeabout three minutes.

I'd say it's notjust about coronavirus.

I'd say coronavirus is the topicof the day but every year in America, we deal with theflu season and the flu season kills tens of thousands ofAmericans every single year.

Kreitenberg said the company isin the early stages of working with theairline industry.

So far, the device hasdisinfected some flights arriving from China at LAX Airport inearly 2020 and is now working with Paine Field Airport inSeattle to disinfect its terminals.

While airlines are at the centerof the coronavirus epidemic, cabin cleaning crews are theones on the front lines.

In March 2020, more than 600 contractedairport workers at Philadelphia's airport, including cabin cleaners, were told they were being laid off amidthe coronavirus outbreak.

In 2018, the most recent yearthis data was made available there were 12, 000 airline cabin cleanersin the U.

S.

, a 10 percent increase from 2001, according to Service Employees International Union.

Only about a third of cabincleaners work directly for the airlines that year.

The median wage for non-airlinecabin cleaners was $12.

56 in 2018, according to SEIU, almost one percent less than the median wage in 2001 -and that's not accounting for inflation.

According to Ken Jacobs, the chair of the UC Berkeley Labor Center, sincethe early 2000's, cabin cleaners have seen a declineboth in real wages and benefits.

What's happened withthe outsourcing is that pushes a real raceto the bottom.

Any airline service firm thatwants to increase pay faces the loss of thecontract that they have.

That puts downward pressure onwages and benefits and leads to high turnoverfor cabin cleaners.

But despite these issues, cabincleaning will be a priority for the airlines in thefuture, according to analysts.

We're going to come out ofthis coronavirus crisis with an elevated focus on hygiene inour homes, in workplaces, where we go to eat andfrankly, at airports and on airplanes.

Passengers won't be astolerant of dirty planes and dirty cabins as theywere and importantly, their employees will be asaccepting of this.

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