Airlines amplify cleaning in coronavirus fight: American, Delta double down with new protocol

Carriers are vying to boost consumer confidence in commercial air travel

Two major airlines are doubling down with enhanced cleaning protocol to amplify aircraft cabin sanitization in the fight against COVID-19.

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American Airlines and Delta Air Lines are augmenting current protocol with respective new measures, Reuters reports, as carriers vie to boost consumer confidence in commercial air travel amid the ongoing outbreak.

On Monday, American confirmed that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has approved an emergency exemption request to allow the Fort Worth-based airline to deploy the virus-killing coating via electrostatic spraying on aircraft surfaces.

The carrier touted Allied BioScience Inc.’s SurfaceWise2 as "the first-ever long-lasting product to help fight the spread of the novel coronavirus" that has been authorized by the EPA.

Melaku Gebermariam uses an electrostatic sprayer to disinfect the inside of a Delta airplane between flights on July 22, at the Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in Arlington, Va. (AP Photo/Nathan Ellgren)

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“SurfaceWise2 creates an invisible barrier on surfaces, which physically breaks down and kills virus cells,” Dr. Charles Gerba, infectious disease expert, said in a statement. “This helps protect passengers and crew members against the transmission of coronavirus via surfaces, particularly on high-touch areas such as seats, armrests, tray tables and overhead bin doors.”

TickerSecurityLastChangeChange %
AALAMERICAN AIRLINES GROUP INC.11.28+0.12+1.08%
DALDELTA AIR LINES INC.30.64-0.12-0.39%

The agency has approved American's use of the surface coating in Texas, per the outlet.

Moving forward, Allied BioScience is said to seek nonemergency approval from the EPA for the antiviral surface coating; if approved, SurfaceWise2 could be sold to the public.

The EPA will allegedly OK the use of the surface coating at the American’s airport facilities in the Lone Star State and on airplanes with flights originating in Texas. (iStock)

Officials stressed, however, that the surface coating is “not a replacement” for standard cleaning and disinfection procedures.

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At Delta, the Atlanta-based airline has doubled the number of cabin cleaners responsible for sanitizing its aircraft cabins during updated pre-flight “pit stops,” Reuters reported Monday. The carrier will now designate at least eight pre-flight cleaners (previously bumped from three to five) to disinfect high-touch spaces and places while grounded between flights.

Delta has doubled the number of cabin cleaners to sanitize its aircraft cabins during updated pre-flight "pit stops." (iStock)

From there, a flight attendant and gate agent will inspect together and call back the cleaners if necessary — “even if that means taking a delay to the flight,” said Mike Medeiros, head of the airline’s new Global Cleanliness division.

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“As important as [being] on time is to our company, we know that cleanliness, particularly in this environment but also going forward, will be just as important,” Medeiros explained.

Delta is also adopting a new testing protocol with the purchase of ATP kits to test the amount of bacteria on surfaces like tray tables and bathroom door handles and ultimately gauge the efficiency of its new cleaning processes. The ATP kits cannot test for the novel coronavirus, per Reuters.

Spokespersons for American and Delta declined to comment further.

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Last week, American announced it intends to suspend flights to 15 U.S. cities in October as demand for travel remains low. Meanwhile, Delta plans to continue blocking middle seats through at least January 2021 in a bid to boost consumer confidence in holiday travel.