Airlines Are Taking Actions To Protect Passengers

Oscar Munoz says United Airlines maintains a sanitary environment at the gate and in the air

united airline plane

‘We are in the business of serving people and in the midst of this coronavirus outbreak, it's important that we give you as much flexibility as possible when planning your next trip,’ said Oscar Munoz, CEO of United Airlines.

‘But it's also important that we give you as much information as possible about the procedures we follow to clean our aircraft and maintain a sanitary environment once we're in the air,’ said this email distributed late on March 6, 2020.

‘Our teams are in daily contact with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) to ensure the actions we're taking are comprehensive and appropriate.’

‘Our team of in-house medical experts and industrial hygienists oversee our aircraft cleaning procedures to ensure they meet or exceed all CDC guidelines.’ 

‘Hard surfaces such as lavatories, tray tables, window shades, and armrests are thoroughly wiped down with a high-grade disinfectant and multi-purpose cleaner.’

  • This is important since a study published in JAMA on March 4, 2020, found ‘toilet bowl and sink’ samples were positive for this coronavirus.

Munoz continued saying ‘And when we are advised by the CDC of a person who has traveled on board and is potentially exhibiting coronavirus symptoms, that aircraft is taken out of service and sent through a full decontamination process that includes our standard cleaning procedures plus washing ceilings and overhead bins and scrubbing the interior.’

  • This is important since the EPA released a list of EPA-registered disinfectant products that have qualified for use against SARS-CoV-2, the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 disease. According to the EPA, coronaviruses are enveloped viruses, meaning they are one of the easiest types of viruses to eliminate with the appropriate disinfectant product.

And, ‘We're also 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.’

In addition, the CDC advised flight crews on a flight with a passenger who is ill with a fever or respiratory symptoms, and who is traveling from an area in which COVID-19 disease cases have been reported, should follow additional precautions, such as:

  • keep the ill person separated from others, and
  • have that passenger wear a surgical mask to reduce the number of droplets coughed into the air.

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While the available information so far suggests that most COVID-19 disease cases are mild, older people and those with underlying health conditions, seem to be at greater risk of serious illness, says the CDC.

As of the afternoon on March 7, 2020, about 105,000 cases of SARS-CoV-2 has been reported, and 3,500 COVID-19 disease-related fatalities, by 91 countries.  

This advice indicates airlines should pay close attention to the needs of these passengers.

The CDC has issued various Travel Alerts indicating which countries people should avoid visiting while the SARS-CoV-2 virus is spreading.

Note:  United and United Express operate approximately 4,900 flights a day to 362 airports across 6 continents. In 2019, United operated more than 1.7 million flights carrying more than 162 million customers.

Coronavirus travel news is published by Vax-Before-Travel.