How Are Passenger Planes Cleaned?

Since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, the cleanliness of aircraft has become an increasingly important aspect for both passengers and crew. Airlines undertake a variety of processes in order to ensure that their planes meet high standards of hygiene and cleanliness. But what exactly does this entail? Let’s take a look.

Aircraft Cleaning Getty
The cleanliness of aircraft has taken on greater significance due to the pandemic. Photo: Getty Images

Different timescales

Particularly amid the present health crisis, aircraft are subject to frequent cleaning. This has become a good way to ensure that passengers feel comfortable traveling during the pandemic. However, the exact nature of how the aircraft is cleaned, and which areas receive what kind of attention, has some variation. This is dictated by the amount of time available.

Of course, airlines want their passengers to board visibly clean aircraft, which is perhaps easiest for the first flight of the day. After all, carriers have more time to work on their aircraft overnight, when there are few, or even no flights to be operated. This allows cleaners to undertake the process more thoroughly, without the pressure of a turnaround.

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easyJet and Ryanair
Turnarounds at LCCs like Ryanair and easyJet can make cleaning a race against time. Photo: Getty Images

However, during the course of an aircraft’s day, it will have turnaround periods between flights that minimize what work can be done. For low-cost airlines with busy schedules, these periods can be as short as half an hour. When you consider that this time also includes disembarking one set of passengers and boarding another, cleaning time is limited.

What gets done when?

During a tight turnaround, airlines like to focus on visual indicators of cleanliness to ensure that they can welcome their passengers onto a visibly clean aircraft. According to trafalgar.com, this typically involves housekeeping tasks like collecting rubbish, changing linens, and wiping surfaces. Of course, the latter has become particularly important since last year.

Aircraft Cleaning Getty
Wiping down frequently-touched surfaces like armrests is an important part of cleaning procedures. Photo: Getty Images

Meanwhile, Christian Rooney, the manager of JetWash Aero, explained to CNN last year that working overnight allows more thorough work to be done. He states:

A basic but more thorough cabin clean is usually carried out at night – or when there is more downtime – and it includes the cleaning of toilets, wiping down and disinfecting of trays, cleaning galleys, [overhead bins], seats etc.”

In the longer term, aircraft also receive a deep clean every so often. This is an even more thorough procedure that airlines plan into a plane’s calendar at different frequencies. For example, the BBC reports that Lufthansa‘s planes get deep-cleaned after every 500 flight hours. Meanwhile, for Singapore Airlines, this takes place monthly. These cleaning procedures see minute detail paid to technical areas, such as air vents.

Singapore Airlines, airbus A380, Windshear
Deep cleaning takes place monthly for Singapore Airlines’ planes. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

Extra procedures during the pandemic

Of course, amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, cleaning and onboard hygiene have become increasingly important factors. This has seen airlines worldwide implement additional procedures to minimize the risk of onboard virus transmission.

For example, United Airlines announced last September that it would begin using robots to apply an antimicrobial protectant spray to cabin surfaces. The US legacy carrier has also used ultraviolet lights to sanitize its aircraft’s cockpits, keeping pilots safe too. These are just a couple of the countless examples worldwide of airlines fulfilling their commitments to passenger safety by ensuring a clean and hygienic cabin environment in which to travel.

Did you know about the various processes that airlines undertake to clean their planes? Perhaps you’ve even seen it being done yourself? Let us know your thoughts and experiences in the comments.

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