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Southwest Airlines dials back on coronavirus cleanings to speed up flight turnarounds

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Travelers are still being forced to adhere to strict guidelines when they fly, including wearing masks at all times amidst the coronavirus pandemic. Airlines, however, still have their sights firmly on the almighty dollar.

This was just shown once again when Southwest Airlines announced that they would be scaling back coronavirus cleanings of their aircrafts between flights so that they could increase flight turnaround. The airline announced this in a memo written to flight attendants that was obtained by CNN.

“As our flight schedule evolves, we are returning to standard turnaround time,” the memo stated. It went on to explain that the new cleaning procedures between flights will  “focus on a few items — tray tables and lavatories.”

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Southwest spokeswoman Ro Hawthorne released a statement after the memo came out claiming that flight crews will be conducting a more thorough cleaning process of all airplanes once a day.

“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,” Hawthorne said.

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Back in March, when the pandemic hit the United States, Southwest announced an enhanced cleaning program that included “interior windows and shades, every seat belt 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, [and] armrests.”

The union representing Southwest flight attendants responded to the memo by urging the airline to help the “public to feel comfortable flying again.”

“Southwest has been ahead of the industry in a lot of ways including electrostatic spraying, overnight deep cleaning and most recently requiring all passengers to wear face coverings with no exemptions,” said Thom McDaniel, a representative with the Transport Workers Union. “We will monitor this change and continue to advocate for best practices at every carrier for the safest possible air travel.”

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Southwest will continue to limit plane capacity through October 31, leaving all middle seats empty until then.

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