Southwest Will No Longer Disinfect Armrests and Seat Belts Between Flights

As flights increase, Southwest Airlines is reducing its COVID-focused cleaning protocol.

Effective this month, the airline is now only disinfecting high-touch areas like lavatories and tray tables between flights. Armrests and seat belts will not be disinfected between flights.

The change was announced in a memo to employees, obtained by USA Today on Monday. The new cleaning protocol focuses on the bathrooms and tray tables which the memo describes as, “the most important areas to clean between each flight as they are prone to contamination from Customer use and food/beverage consumption."

The policy change is due to a recent increase in flight schedules, allowing for less downtime between flights, the airline confirmed to Travel + Leisure on Tuesday.

“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,” a Southwest spokesperson told T+L. “Additionally, our electrostatic spraying process applies a disinfectant and spray that forms an anti-microbial coating that kills viruses on contact for 30 days.”

Customers will be able to request sanitizing wipes if they wish to disinfect their space on the airplane before sitting down.

Southwest will continue many of its coronavirus-sparked procedures over the coming months, like boarding passengers in smaller groups and blocking the middle seat until October. The number of passengers allowed on board each flight will continue to be limited.

The airline also recently announced that they'll be testing out thermal cameras at select airports to check passengers' temperatures.

“Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Southwest has been implementing new initiatives and evolving our processes,” the airline told T+L. “As always, Southwest will monitor Customer and Employee feedback as we adapt to the new normal in air travel, while ensuring we keep safety as our top priority.”

Photo: Getty Images

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