Coronavirus: Southwest Airlines nixes some between-flight COVID-19 cleaning to boost turnaround time

Coronavirus: Southwest Airlines nixes some between-flight COVID-19 cleaning to boost turnaround time
A Southwest Airlines airplane comes in for a landing at Los Angeles International Airport on May 12, 2020, in Los Angeles, California. The airline scaled back its between-flight cleaning procedures Aug. 1 to improve turnaround time. (FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images)

DALLAS — In a bid to boost turnaround time between flights, Southwest Airlines is scaling back some passenger cabin cleaning protocols adopted in response to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

According to a memo obtained by CNN Travel, seatbelts and armrests will no longer receive between-flight sanitizations in order to allow more time for the cleaning of tray tables and bathrooms while also limiting the amount of time aircraft spend grounded between flights.

“As our flight schedule evolves, we are returning to standard turnaround time,” the memo stated.

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Southwest spokeswoman Ro Hawthorne said in a statement that the revised cleaning protocols mean crews will conduct more thorough, once-daily cleanings.

“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 stated.

The shift in policy, which took effect Aug. 1, prioritizes high-touch areas, Fox Business reported.

“These are the most important areas to clean between each flight as they are prone to contamination from customer use and food/beverage consumption,” Southwest’s memo stated.

In an email to Fox News, the Dallas-based carrier detailed its “multi-layered approach” to cleaning, which includes using a broad-spectrum disinfectant to clean lavatories and tray tables at every seat between each flight. The planes also undergo an electrostatic cleaning once a month that reportedly kills bacteria for 30 days.

The network also noted the airline will provide sanitizing wipes upon request to flyers wishing to wipe down their own areas before takeoff as well as hand sanitizer at check-in and all ticket counters.

Meanwhile, Southwest has also committed to limiting plane capacity through at least Oct. 31, allowing for middle seats to remain empty, CNN Travel reported.