Southwest Pulls Back on Jet Cleanup to Save Time Between Flights

Southwest Airlines Co. has scaled back its aircraft-cleaning procedures between flights to prevent reduced staffing and busier operations from keeping aircraft on the ground longer than scheduled.

Starting Aug. 1, Southwest stopped wiping down arm rests and seat belts after every flight, as well as other areas around seats that had been occupied. Tray tables and lavatories, considered the most “high touch” areas, will still be disinfected before each takeoff, the company said Monday. Passengers can also ask for sanitizing wipes if they want to clean other surfaces amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“Southwest is committed to retaining a level of cleaning before every flight -- even as loads and daily flights have increased,” the company said by email. The Dallas-based airline will monitor customer and employee feedback on the change “as we adapt to the new normal in air travel while ensuring we are always keeping safety as our top priority.”

Minimizing the time that planes spend on the ground between flights is a key part of Southwest’s lower-cost business model. Turnaround averaged about 47 minutes in March, the carrier said. It’s now about 50 minutes.

All interior surfaces are cleaned overnight during a process that takes six to seven hours a plane, Southwest said. The carrier also uses an electrostatic sprayer and anti-microbial liquid that kills viruses for 30 days. The change in cleaning practices after each flight was reported earlier by travel blog One Mile at a Time.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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