Delta Air Lines has bought 30 handheld devices that can detect the amount of bacteria on a surface at a cost of $1,000 per device. While the ATP test kits can’t yet detect the presence of the COVID-19 virus, Delta hopes the devices will help it measure the effectiveness of new aircraft cleaning routines that have doubled in length since the beginning of the Coronavirus pandemic.
“We’ve done quite a lot of change to our turn process,” Delta’s head of Global Cleanliness, Mike Medeiros told Reuters. Delta created the new department in June to bring new “focus and rigor” to aircraft cleanliness.
The ‘turn’ refers to the time that an aircraft sits on the ground being prepped for the next flight. In recent years, airlines have taken significant steps to reduce the turn time in order to eek as much profitability as possible from their aircraft.
Delta is now spending an average of 20 minutes cleaning aircraft between flights on its domestic network according to Medeiros – before the COVID-19 pandemic, the target to complete cabin cleaning was just 10 minutes. The airline has also more than doubled the number of staff deployed to clean a plane during a turn.
Medeiros said that at least eight cleaners were now sent to meet planes between flights but that number might be increased further in order to reduce the cleaning time as schedules start to get heavier.
Delta has been working with microbiologists employed by the makers of Lysol to develop new disinfection protocols. The airline has made much of new electrostatic sprayers that coat surfaces with long-lasting disinfectant.
On Sunday, it emerged that the Environmental Protection Agency was set to issue an emergency exemption for Texas in order to allow Dallas-based American Airlines to use a new surface coating that can kill Coronaviruses for up to seven days. American Airlines has also doubled the number of cleaners sent to aircraft during their turn but has not increased the cleaning time.
Fellow Dallas-based airline Southwest, however, recently received flak over its decision to cut back some COVID-19 cleaning protocols. The airline will now focus cleaning on high-touch surfaces, especially passenger tray tables. Southwest says it will maintain electrostatic spraying with a disinfectant that can kill germs for up to 30-days.
jetBlue has been testing a UV light germ busting trolley that can be quickly wheeled through an aircraft trolley and safely disinfect an entire single-aisle plane in just 10-minutes according to its manufacturers. But the trolley has received little interest from other airlines.
Meanwhile, Boeing is testing a UV wand that could be used in flight decks where standard disinfectants can’t be used. United Airlines has been testing a similar product.
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 used by some of the biggest names in journalism.