For months, flights have been suspended due to health concerns that may help coronavirus spread further. Now, after lockdowns and flight cancellations have been lifted, airlines are looking into improving their ways of disinfecting their airplanes for a safer flight.
The cleaning process has now become more meticulous than it was before. Passengers, especially germophobes, would be delighted to know that airlines are taking their job in cleaning airplanes more seriously this time.
Airplanes are cleaned by nine crew members quickly but efficiently after the passengers disembark from the plane.
A worker would first pass through the cabin to open the overhead bins and each tray tables in the aircraft. Then, he would open the window shades halfway to allow the disinfectant to stick to both the window and the shade.
Afterward, one cleaner equipped with a backpack filled with a disinfectant solution and a spray nozzle called an electrostatic sprayer will pass through the cabin. That worker will spray a mist of the disinfectant, slowly moving to each part of the airplane-from lavatories at the back of the cabin to the front.
Additionally, that worker would also spray every seat, sidewall, overhead air vent, and bin. On average, the cleaning process would take up to ten minutes.
The rest of the cleaning crew are waiting on the air bridge, wearing face masks while the airplane was fogged. Upon completion, the cleaners would board the plane and wipe the surfaces. One person is in charge of scrubbing the forward galley, while two persons are assigned to clean the lavatory at the back.
The remaining cleaning crew would then start wiping the seats, seat backs, tray tables, overhead bins, armrests, and the sides of the seats using a hand-held spray bottle filled with a similar disinfectant that the fogger used.
The lavatory at the rear end of the plane is wiped down with the same heavily soaked Lysol wipes. Sometimes, the floors are also vacuumed, and when a plane sits for longer than eight hours, like a long haul jet, the airline will perform a deep cleaning of the airplane.
Deep cleaning involves the removal of seat cushions, the seats are vacuumed, and the whole carpet of the cabin is shampooed.
How often are airplanes cleaned?
The cleaning schedule of airplanes varies per airline. Some would clean their aircraft more frequently now than before the pandemic.
Some airlines would disinfect their high-touch surfaces in planes at every turn, the time between the landing and departing, with the same disinfectant solution used by most airlines. According to American Airlines, it's electrostatic fogging provides seven days of protection against COVID-19.
Meanwhile, other airlines would disinfect their airplanes on longer turns or when the aircraft stays overnight. Some of them would also use ultraviolet light systems that clean the cabin within ten minutes without using chemical disinfectants.
What chemicals do they use to disinfect airplanes?
Some airlines, like Delta, use Matrix 3, which is approved by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to use on airplanes as it does not cause corrosion on aluminum. The solution is a combination of Tetrasodium EDTA and ethanol.
Matrix 3 is identified as a stronger disinfectant compared to common household cleaners as it can kill harder-to-kill pathogens like SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19.
Is fogging effective?
Compared to regular spraying and wiping, electrostatic fogging is more effective as it can reach surfaces that a spray bottle and a rag cannot. It simplifies the disinfection process and mitigates human error.
Within the first two minutes of dwell time, the chemical had mostly dried. The crew after the fogger will wipe down the little residue rested on surfaces so that by the time passengers go on board, the disinfectant would have dried already and killed 99.9% of pathogens.