The UK’s Sun runs a scare story on germs on planes. (HT: Ken A.) Now, I’m absolutely worried about germs on planes. But much of what’s presented in the piece is flat wrong.
- They claim “the only deep clean on planes happens overnight”
- “[S]ome airlines even re-use their blankets without washing them”
I wish airlines deep cleaned their planes each night! However if a blanket is wrapped in plastic you’re good. I wouldn’t use a blanket that isn’t wrapped, though.
United Polaris Bedding and Pajamas
Airlines do a quick clean between flights, but that doesn’t usually involve even ensuring that seat back pockets are emptied except for the most obvious trash. First flight of the day is going to be the cleanest, but that’s not because there’s a deep clean just more than trash pickup usually (and because there’s time onboard without passengers where many germs have time to die).
Cleaning schedules vary by airline and also the routes planes are on, there’s more done with aircraft flying in and out of hot spots for things like Zika than, say, aircraft flying domestically. Here’s a 3 year old Scott McCartney piece describing the deep clean cycles for major US airlines.:
Carriers don’t report what they spend for cleaning, but some have said they reduced costs in that area when pinched economically. They have also mentioned boosting spending on cleaning during economic recovery after customer complaints about dirty airplanes. Two years after emerging from bankruptcy reorganization, United said it would do “deep cleanings” on planes several times a year, instead of once every 18 months, after increased customer cleanliness complaints.
…Every 35 to 55 days, depending on the aircraft type, United planes get a “deep cleaning” that includes washing the ceilings and sidewalls and the seat-bottom cushions. American says it does its version of deep cleaning—washing seat cushions and cleaning carpets and floors, lavatories, bins, tray tables—every 30 days. Delta said its planes get a deep cleaning every 90 to 100 days when jets get regular maintenance work.
Years ago Delta was also on a 15 to 18 month cycle.
Airlines That Don’t Fix Their Planes Can’t Be Expected to Clean Them
Three years ago I asked American about their blankets and pillows and was assured if they’re in a plastic wrapper they’re clean.
We have verified that AA does not ever fold a blanket, and we do not ever place used blankets or pillows back into a sealed wrapper. We have procedures to replace these used items with fresh ones throughout our system and throughout the course of an aircraft’s flying day.
For example, here at DFW such used items are pulled from an aircraft by our contractors and sent to an industrial cleaning facility in South Arlington. They in turn launder these, seal and re-supply our inventory.
This is all contractual and there is oversight to ensure procedures are adhered to.
On long haul flights I use the blanket as a makeshift mattress pad. On domestic flights in first, if I am going to take my shoes off (don’t worry, I wear socks and I shower regularly and I don’t do this often) I’ll lay the blanket down on the aircraft’s floor so my feet don’t touch the dirty ground. I’m something of a germaphobe. I fly regularly and that alone increases my chances of getting sick, while I’m busy enough that getting sick has significant consequences for my schedule. I carry hand sanitizer in my Freedom Baggie and use it inflight (including after washing my hands in the lavatory, and I use a paper towel to open and close the door as well).