British Airways has allegedly stopped its hot towel service on all flights in response to fears over the COVID-19 Coronavirus outbreak. According to an airline insider, BA banned cabin crew from distributing hot towels with immediate effect as of Friday morning. It’s not known how long the ban will continue.
The insider claimed on the popular FlyerTalk internet forum that a lack of uptake, along with concerns raised by both passengers and crew about the possibility of spreading the virus was behind the decision.
Some commentators and frequent flyers queried the rationale behind the decision, with some suggesting the hot towel service was the only time they cleaned their hands or their seat area during a flight – perhaps a good enough reason to stop serving hot towels in itself.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends frequent hand washing with soap and water or using an alcohol-based hand rub when your hands are not visibly dirty as the best method protective measure against Coronavirus.
Hot towels are not anti-bacterial or anti-viral.
An increasing number of passengers are said to be declining hot towels because they would rather wash their hands properly, while cabin crew are fearful of handling the dirty towels without proper protection.
A number of other airlines have already stopped distributing hot towels on flights to mainland China (those that are still flying), along with Hong Kong and other destinations in the region.
Both Cathay Pacific and its regional subsidiary Cathay Dragon stopped hot towel services at the end of January as part of a whole raft of in-flight service changes to limit the spread of the virus.
Cathay Pacific said the changes would “provide enhanced protection for our customers and crew while at the same time continuing to deliver a satisfactory inflight experience for passengers.”
Along with a ban on hot towels, Cathay Pacific has also stopped offering pillows, blankets and magazines – although this is only limited to flights to mainland China.
The use of face masks and disposable gloves has become a popular protective measure against the Coronavirus, although the efficacy of these methods for the general public is dubious. The WHO does not recommend the use of face masks or gloves as a protective measure against contracting the virus. Further official advice can be found here.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.