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How Hotels and Airlines are Changing Cleaning Policies in the Wake of COVID-19

Planning on traveling during the COVID-19 pandemic? Most airlines and hotels have stepped up their cleaning policies in an effort to help fight the virus. However, if you’re traveling, you should still be sure to do your part. Here’s how to disinfect your airplane seat and your hotel room

New CDC Guidelines for Airline Crew

The CDC recently released new COVID-19-specific guidelines for airlines and airline crew, which give recommendations on cleaning aircrafts, dealing with sick passengers, and staying healthy.

The advice for cabin crew to stay healthy is similar to advice for the general public:

“Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, particularly after assisting sick travelers or touching potentially contaminated body fluids or surfaces; after coughing, sneezing, or blowing your nose; after using the restroom; and before preparing or serving food or beverages.

Use alcohol-based hand sanitizer (containing at least 60% alcohol) if soap and water are not available.”

New CDC Guidelines for Cleaning Aircrafts

If no symptomatic passengers have been identified on the flight (or immediately after), airlines should continue their standard operating procedures for cleaning the plane.

However, if a sick passenger was flagged onboard, the CDC recommends enhanced sanitization measures, which include: Cleaning all soft and hard surfaces “at the seat of the symptomatic passenger(s) and within six feet of the symptomatic passengers in all directions”. In addition, any lavatories used by the sick passenger must be thoroughly disinfected. Any items that can’t be cleaned (such as pillows or safety cards) must be disposed of.

Airline Response

Airlines around the world are complying with these rules. Turkish Airlines writes: “Our aircraft undergo a thorough cleaning process, in compliance with the national and international civil aviation authorities’ guidelines that include the wiping of the commonly-touched surfaces in the flight cabin and lavatories including toilets, tray tables, armrests, seatbelt buckles and in-flight entertainment screens with disinfectants. All blankets, linens, headrest covers, bedsheets and headsets are replaced with fresh sets for each flight.”

Some airlines are adding additional precautions. United is “adjusting our inflight service to limit person-to-person contamination. This includes handing beverages directly to customers instead of allowing customers to touch a tray and ensuring all flight attendants wear gloves during service.”

Other airlines are stepping up the level of disinfectants they use to clean planes to be hospital-grade. Qantas, for example, is now using Viraclean, which kills bacteria and viruses more effectively than other solutions.

Many airlines are also sending out reassuring notices about the air quality on their aircrafts. From United: “Our aircraft are equipped with state-of-the-art circulation systems, similar to those found in hospitals, which use a high-efficiency (HEPA) filter to circulate the air and remove more than 99% of airborne particles.”

Other airlines, like Delta, are adding “fogging” to their cleaning list after every flight. This process utilizes a fog machine to aerosolize a disinfectant and disperse it throughout the entire cabin.

Hotel Response

Hotels are also intensifying their cleaning procedures and increasing the frequency of cleanings for “high-touch” public areas (such as elevators, door handles, lobbies, and even room keys.) Most hotels are already using hospital-grade disinfectants for standard cleanings, and will continue to do so.

Properties are providing more bottles of hand sanitizers for guests and employees to use. Expect to see more hand-sanitizing stations on hotel desks, in lobbies, and in dining areas.

Other hotels, like Marriott, are putting an emphasis on hotel associates, by reminding workers to wash their hands, and providing “enhanced COVID-19 awareness training.”

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By Caroline Morse Teel

Unfortunately for her bank account, Principal Editor Caroline Morse Teel is powerless to resist a good flight deal. Follow her on Instagram @TravelWithCaroline.

Caroline joined Boston-based SmarterTravel in 2011 after living in Ireland, London, and Manhattan. She's traveled to all seven continents, jumped out of planes, and bungeed off bridges in the pursuit of a good story. She loves exploring off-the-beaten path destinations, anything outdoorsy, and all things adventure.

Her stories have also appeared online at USA Today, Business Insider, Huffington Post, Yahoo, Boston.com, TripAdvisor, Buzzfeed, Jetsetter, Oyster, Airfarewatchdog, and others.

The Handy Item I Always Pack: "Earplugs. A good pair has saved my sleep and sanity many times!"

Ultimate Bucket List Experience: Hiking Mount Kilimanjaro.

Travel Motto: "Don't be boring."

Aisle, Window, or Middle Seat: "Aisle (when the first class private suite isn't available)."

E-mail her at cmorse@smartertravel.com.

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