United Airlines announced in a note to frequent travelers Monday that it is ramping up and changing its cleaning and inflight service procedures to address the coronavirus outbreak — and encourage more people to get on planes, which, good luck.
Standard post-flight cleanings on United will now include "thorough wipe-down of all hard surfaces touched by customers and employees — including lavatories, galleys, tray tables, window shades and armrests" using high-grade disinfectant. This is something the optimistic among may have thought actually happened between flights on normal days, but those in the industry know that, no, it's mostly just a quick vacuum and trash pickup and they're on their way again.
As the SF Business Times reports, there will also be some changes to inflight service, which include not refilling beverage glasses — customers will be handed a new glass — and not allowing passengers to reach for their own cup off of a service tray.
Also, the airline says it will take aircraft out of service for special deep-cleans as necessary if an employee or passenger is confirmed as a coronavirus case.
This announcement comes as the airline industry faces an uncertain — and likely terrible — couple of months at a minimum, with travel restrictions going into place around the world and everyone getting very wary of being in close, confined spaces with potentially sick people.
Industry experts, as the Guardian reports, are predicting a 9/11-esque downturn for air travel driven by virus fears that could go on for an indeterminate amount of time. After 9/11, the airline industry saw a 7 percent loss in revenue, or about about $23 billion in losses. And Channel News Asia predicts that there will be a "Darwinian shakeout in Europe's overcrowded airline industry" thanks to the coronavirus.
President Trump said Tuesday that he is working on a stimulus plan with Senate Republicans, and he said of the airline industry, "We'll be helping them through this patch."