Southwest Airlines is reducing its cabin cleaning procedures that it implemented in March. The airline is doing so to reduce the time its aircrafts spend on the ground for cleaning between flights.
However, the airline will not clean seat belts in between each flight. It will sanitize tray tables and lavatories in between flights and will also deep clean the aircraft overnight.
However, as Southwest’s schedule returns to normal it says this change was necessary to cope up with the demand. “Since flight schedules have increased. Other areas of the aircraft will be disinfected during our overnight cleaning process,” an airline spokesperson said.
The airline provides the passengers with disinfectant wipes upon request. So anyone who wants to do extra cleaning can do so.
Southwest’s business model relies on quick turnaround times between flights, sometimes as little as 30 minutes. By maximizing in-flight time, the airline can squeeze the most performance from each plane, keeping costs and fares lower.
In May, Shashank Nigam, CEO of airline marketing firm SimpliFlying, predicted that enhancing cleaning procedures and making the passengers feel safe for traveling would eventually clash with the realities of running a low-cost airline.
“The 30-minute turn is critical, especially for low-cost airlines like Spirit and Southwest. And they’ll do everything they can to ensure that they don’t slip from that,” he said.
“I foresee legacy airlines like Delta and Air Canada using this as a brand differentiator,” he added. “The low-cost airlines, to preserve their 30-minute turnaround, will need to do a lot of these deep cleaning efforts overnight, as opposed to every single flight.”
Southwest spokeswoman Ro Hawthorne said crews would conduct a more thorough cleaning process once daily.
“Since flight schedules have increased, other areas of the aircraft will be disinfected during our overnight cleaning process, when Southwest Teams spend six to seven hours per aircraft cleaning all interior surfaces,” Hawthorne said in a statement.
“Southwest has been ahead of the industry in a lot of ways including electrostatic spraying, overnight deep cleaning and most recently requiring all passengers to wear face coverings with no exemptions,” said Thom McDaniel, a representative with the Transport Workers Union.
“We will monitor this change. And continue to advocate for best practices at every carrier for the safest possible air travel.”
Blocking Middle Seats
However, despite cutting the cleaning procedures between flights. Southwest said it will continue blocking middle seats on aircraft to follow social distancing on board.
According to recent data passengers are willing to pay 16-17 percent more to fly with the airline that is following social distancing. Delta, which also blocks middle seats, said that customers have cited that as their top reason for choosing the airline in recent surveys.