Alaska Airlines is one of the carriers betting on enhanced aircraft disinfection methods to make people more willing to travel again. Airline COO Gary Beck said Thursday that the carrier is looking at a couple of possible innovations, including a new UV light system that would kill any potentially lingering virus particles in aircraft cabins.
In the battle for the post-pandemic customer, trust is sure to be a major factor in airlines’ “soft power” approach to attracting passengers back on board their planes. While there is conflicting evidence as to how widespread coronavirus contamination is on board aircraft, the need to feel safe from exposure while flying will most likely be a determining component for people to regain confidence in air travel.
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Similar to hospitals
The interior of planes may never have been cleaner or more sterile than they are right now. However, some airlines feel there is potential to add more time- and cost-effective disinfecting measures to the mix. Alaska Airlines revealed Thursday that it is testing a new device that uses ultraviolet light to clean aircraft cabins.
The machine is similar to ones used in hospitals, reportedly rolls down the aisle, and has wings that go over the seats. The tray tables would be open to receive their share of the germ-killing UV rays.
Potentially the GermFalcon
While Alaska’s COO Gary Beck, according to Puget Sound Business Journal, did not mention which system the carrier was using, the description matches that of a device being sold by a company called Honeywell, known as the GermFalcon.
The system was revealed on June 10th, and its inventor, Dimer LCC, has given Honeywell exclusive license to sell it to airlines worldwide. Reportedly, it can disinfect most aircraft cabins in under ten minutes. Furthermore, it doesn’t cost more than a few dollars per flight, if one disregards the initial purchase investment.
Other innovations in cabin cleanliness are also underway. Boeing is experimenting with self-sanitizing lavatories that can disinfect themselves within three seconds. Manufacturing engineers, both with the North American playmaker and its European competitor Airbus are experimenting with changing the way that air flows around passengers on board.
Both plane-makers are also looking into ionization technology. This would be plugged into the air condition system of the aircraft, and the ions would kill the virus as they circulate through the cabin. However, this technology is still pretty far off.
We have not even begun to see the beginning of the end of the global pandemic. As various clusters pop up in recently reopened societies, it is becoming clear that we may cohabitate with corona for some time to come. The commercial aviation industry can not survive a prolonged state of such low demand. Inspiring trust through investing in advanced disinfecting and cleaning technology may be a very prudent move.