Delta is modifying planes to put in Purell hand sanitizing stations. These will be placed near boarding doors and also by lavatories on all of their aircraft.
The first planes to be retrofit are the Boeing 757 fleet and that starts on Friday, August 28. The largest aircraft will have 5 stations.
This is a cool advance. On its own it isn’t much, but it’s consistent with Delta’s significant investment in cleaning, and continuing to kinda sorta block middle seats. As it is they’re doing more than many of their peers disinfecting. They were first to do electrostatic spraying (United executives tell me they literally got the idea from Delta). And they do it more often – between every flight, they say, in contrast to American Airlines doing it every seven days.
And yet Delta can’t help themselves, whenever they do something positive they have to exaggerate or make it out to be bigger than it is. It’s endemic to their corporate communications culture, but it undermines their credibility.
For instance they also choose to highlight their cleanliness efforts including “all aircraft bathrooms will soon feature hand-washing reminders.” People who don’t remember to wash their hands aren’t going to value Delta’s efforts here. And they promise they’ll be “exploring how we can bring touchless features forward throughout the travel experience.” In other words they are highlighting something they aren’t even doing.
They also claim that flight attendants “are wiping down high-touch surfaces in lavatories frequently during each flight.” I mean, Delta flight attendants are generally a bit friendlier and do more than their unionized counterparts at United and American. But this is more theoretical than something most passengers report in practice.
Still, putting hand sanitizer stations on planes is no easy feat, believe it or not. Airlines can’t just put hand sanitizer on planes.
While the TSA lets each passenger bring up to 12 ounces through their security checkpoints, and passengers and crew are permitted to carry hand sanitizer on board planes consistent with 49 CFR §175.10, an airline has to get permission of the Administrator of the FAA to carry and distribute it under 49 CFR §175.8 (a)(4). This even though the FAA studied hand sanitizer on planes and found it completely safe.
At a minimum Delta would have had to get buy in from the airline’s direct regulators in their certificate management office, and also from the FAA’s Office of Hazardous Materials Safety, on top of standard approval to modify the aircraft.
Highlighting the investment in hand sanitizer stations is cool, it’s more than others are doing – although perhaps others will feel the need to copy. And they should be applauded on that alone, along with sanitizing efforts between every flight. There’s really no need for further exaggeration.