Southwest Has Decided Not to Sanitize Your Seat Belt as Frequently

Illustration for article titled Southwest Has Decided Not to Sanitize Your Seat Belt as Frequently
Photo: DANIEL SLIM/AFP (Getty Images)

Southwest Airlines is reportedly scaling back its sanitation efforts between flights, with flight crew being told that sanitizing seat beats and armrests will not be part of this process. The airline said the new policy is focused on “optimizing” staff and shifting heavy cleaning to evenings.

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The airline told Gizmodo by email on Wednesday that it will continue cleaning tray tables and aircraft lavatories using “a broad-spectrum disinfectant before every flight.” However, according to a memo the airline sent to flight attendants and obtained by USA Today and CNN, the new cleaning efforts will not include the sanitization of seat belts or armrests between flights.

Instead, the company said that it would continue offering sanitizing wipes to its customers should they ask, adding that its “electrostatic spraying process applies a disinfectant and anti-microbial spray to every surface of the aircraft, killing viruses on contact and forming an anti-microbial coating, or shield, for 30 days.”

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“At the same time, we are also optimizing available staffing and coordinating our Southwest Promise elements by shifting cleaning of some areas to our overnight cleaning process, when Southwest Teams spend six to seven hours per aircraft cleaning all interior surfaces,” the company said. “This approach is one more process evolution designed to support our multi-layered cleaning program that occurs throughout the day.”

Southwest had previously announced back in March what it called a “multi-step cleaning process” with hospital-grade disinfectant. That process, the company said at the time, included sanitizing “high-touch areas such as interior windows and shades, every seatbelt buckle, passenger service units (including the touch buttons that control reading lights and vents that direct personal air), as well as seat surfaces, tray tables, armrests, etc.” So much for that.

Southwest is, at least, continuing to block middle seats from being filled through at least Halloween. Should you find yourself flying Southwest—or any airline for that matter—it probably wouldn’t hurt to sanitize any high-touch areas you encounter (as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). And always, always wear a mask.

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DISCUSSION

I’m going on my first flight in the pandemic this Friday on Southwest. I’m terrified. I would not go if I didn’t absolutely have to (not work related). My work colleague assured me I should be OK (he’s gone on a number of required personal flights himself). I’m glad SW is not filling the middle seats. Would window be better than aisle since you’re farther from people passing you by? In the before-time, I always took aisle, but window seems to be slightly better now.

Ugh, does it even matter?