How Are Aircraft Cleaned and Sanitized Between Flights?
Aircraft are heavily used vehicles for worldwide travel. With over 5,000 aircraft in the air at any given moment and 2.7 million passengers in and out of United States airports in a single day, airliners have to meet quick turnarounds to keep up with busy schedules. During ground operations in between flights, cleaning and preparing the cabin for the next round of passengers is a pivotal process. From aircraft sanitization, restocking, and even security screening, there are many processes that must be quickly conducted to establish both safety and cleanliness for the many worldwide travelling passengers a day. In this blog, we will discuss how cleaning and sanitization is conducted, as well as what equipment and chemicals are used.
Cleaning operations begin as soon as the aircraft is landed, and previous passengers may be familiar with crews starting their cleaning procedures as they exit the cabin. Interior cleaning is important as it prevents the spread of diseases and sickness, as well as provides a high standard of cleanliness for the experience of customers. Interior cleaning may take around 30-40 minutes to complete and entails cleaning litter and refuse, checking overhead aircraft cabinets, replacing linens, replenishing bathroom supplies, vacuuming, and much more. Cleaning crews also provide aircraft deep cleans periodically to thoroughly sanitize seats, doors, crew stations, and more. To further high cleaning standards, carpets, curtains, and seats may be replaced on set intervals, and lavatories and galleys are disassembled and thoroughly cleaned.
Cleaning operations are not only to provide for sanitation, but also to ensure the longevity of aviation parts and systems. Because of this, the exterior of the aircraft is also often cleaned, ranging from the fuselage to interior components of the aircraft engine. In places with harsh environmental conditions, such as the Middle East, salt, sand, and high temperatures can cause deterioration and corrosion of components. To mitigate this, the exterior of the aircraft is often cleaned using wet wash, dry wash, and polishing procedures. Choosing the right cleaning chemicals and compounds is important for thorough removal of dirt, grease, and other contaminants.
Typically, aircraft cleaning equipment, cleaners, and chemicals are chosen based on airline or manufacturer recommendations to meet set health and safety standards. Equipment and chemicals are often very dependent on the area that is being cleaned, taking into account surrounding components, confined spaces, and other factors. In some areas, the use of water is carefully restricted so as to not damage electronics or wiring present. Chemicals also must be used with care so as to not remove treatment that may be applied to carpets, linens, and seating. To help cleaning crews, chemicals will provide manuals for proper use and other guidelines. Equipment used by cleaning crews may vary from one operation to the other, but common items include buckets, cloths, vacuum cleaners, detergents, trash bags, brushes, toilet paper, and more.
Beyond sanitization, cleaning crews are also in charge of scanning the plane for any hazards or dangers before the next round of passengers enter the aircraft. During their cleaning process, cleaners check every corner and area of the aircraft to account for everything. This also aids in guaranteeing the cleanliness of the aircraft as every nook and cranny has been checked and cleaned. During the cleaning procedure, various test blocks may be hidden throughout the aircraft as a way to check that cleaners have thoroughly scanned and cleaned the cabin.
While similar to cleaning a house or business, aircraft cleaning is usually a much grander scale operation, consisting of multiple teams that each take care of various tasks as assigned. The World Health Organization (WHO) also provides a Guide to Hygiene and Sanitation in Aviation to assist in recommended cleaning and sanitation procedures. Despite the complexity and amount of procedures required, the entire cleaning operation is completed with impressive efficiency and results due to extensive training, guidelines, and expertise of aircraft cleaners.
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