3 minute read

Airplane cleanliness – the new first class

By Jim Byers

In the past, Canadian airlines would battle back and forth over who had the best service or the fanciest meals on board. Now, with a worldwide pandemic raging, their marketing campaigns are focused on HEPA filters and sanitizing wipes instead of filet mignon and lie-flat seats. A recent study of travellers by OAG, an aviation analytics firm, found that 40 per cent of North Americans say they’re more afraid of catching COVID-19 on plane than anyplace else in their travels. The general public is clearly hesitant, but Canadian airlines say they’ve listened carefully and have made major changes. They also insist there’s yet to be a proven case of transmission of the disease on a plane. Canadian airlines have begun offering free health insurance to travellers. They’re also working with Canadian airports to try to bring in rapid COVID-19 testing, which could eliminate the need for mandatory 14-day quarantines VIDEO


The health and safety program of Transat features enhanced health and safety measures at check-in, during boarding, on board and at destinations. Passengers receive a complimentary care kit with a mask, gloves, hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes.

Before each and every flight, planes are thoroughly cleaned with hospital-grade disinfectant, including seats, headrest covers, seat belt buckles, seat controls, seat-back pockets, armrests, light switches, air circulation controls, tray tables, individual entertainment screens, and overhead bins and handles. The entire aircraft also is cleaned every 24 hours with electrostatic disinfectant, according to Transat.

Its company policy says that washrooms will be thoroughly cleaned and that only one passenger is allowed to wait outside the toilet. That means you might want to watch that water intake on your flight.


Officials say all WestJet planes are equipped with “industry-leading air circulation systems containing a HEPA (High-Efficiency Particulate Air) filter similar to what is used in hospital environments, achieving a viral removal efficiency of greater than 99 per cent.”

WestJet says its cleaning procedure provides a complete disinfection of the aircraft interior using a hydrogen peroxide-based solution cleaner. Billy Nolen, vice president of safety, security and quality at WestJet, said stepped-up safety measures also include taking temperatures of passengers before they board.

WestJet passengers get disinfectant wipes, and, on flights of 60 minutes or more, they’ll get a bottle of water and a snack.



Air Canada says it has been at the forefront of the fight against COVID-19. “We have been a leader in progressively introducing new measures in response to COVID-19, such as introducing personal protective equipment (PPE) for our employees and being the first North American carrier to require face coverings for customers,” explained president and CEO, Calin Rovinescu.

Changes have also been made at Air Canada lounges. They’re offering pre-packaged meals and have assisted beverage service to replace pre-COVID self-serve options. Lounge guests can order food or drinks from their seats using a QR code. Air Canada also has moved seats around to create proper social distancing while passengers wait for their flights. Passengers on Air Canada flights are also given a kit that includes gloves, a mask, hand sanitizer, wipes and a bottle of water.

Airplanes are now routinely misted or fogged with anti-bacterial sprays between flights, as well. Air Canada officials put on a demonstration of their cleaning techniques at Toronto Pearson this summer, showing off the electro-static sprayers used to kill germs on their aircraft and explaining how the fine mist allows the cleaning fluids to reach nooks and crannies that a wipe wouldn’t reach.

© Air Canada


“The air on board is filtered to the highest standards, and always was,” recently said Andrew Dawson, Sunwing president and chief executive officer. He cited a Harvard study that concluded a person is more likely to be struck by lightning than to contact COVID-19 on a modern jet plane. As part of the company’s Safe With Sunwing program, it has hired Medcan, a global health care company that provides medical expertise and consultation. Dr. Peter Nord, chief medical officer at Medcan, is acting as Sunwing’s chief medical advisor. In early November, he flew with Sunwing to Cancun to check out procedures and safety protocols. “The journey was seamless from check-in and boarding the flight to resort arrival,” he reported. “The high Canadian standards that Sunwing has implemented are evident through every step of the vacation journey. I can confidently say that, with the Safe with Sunwing commitment in place, Canadians can travel with peace of mind.”