Southwest is updating its cleaning policy in a way that may surprise passengers. The airline has announced that it will no longer be disinfecting armrests and seat belts between flights. The change is being done for what appears to be expediency's sake.
It has been revealed that Southwest team members currently spend about an hour cleaning the interiors of aircraft between flights. Southwest is attempting to return to pre-COVID turnaround times for its aircraft now that more flights are back in action. Southwest is now shifting its focus to address potential contamination in areas related to restrooms and food service as part of an effort to have planes ready sooner.
The changes to Southwest's cleaning protocol went into effect on Aug. 1. Southwest will be focusing on cleaning high-touch areas throughout its cabins between flights. This includes lavatories and tray tables. All areas deemed to be high-touch areas will still be cleaned before each new flight.
That being said, Southwest will continue to disinfect armrests and seat belts as part of its enhanced nightly cleaning procedures which take roughly 6-7 hours to complete. Additionally, Southwest actually uses a high-tech electrostatic cleaning process in every cabin once a month. This process supposedly kills bacteria on contact for a full 30 days.
There is also word that Southwest plans to begin testing thermal cameras that are capable of taking passenger temperatures at select airports around the country. For now, Southwest isn't fully leaving customers on their own to battle germs. Southwest customers who desire a little bit of extra disinfection can request sanitizing wipes that can be used to wipe down surfaces around their seat. The carrier will also continue blocking middle seats to encourage social distancing between passengers through at least October.