American, United Aim for Cleaner Planes


The Chicago Tribune reports that two of the country's biggest airlines, American and United, have lately been paying more attention to their planes—the cleanliness of their planes, that is. Each carrier has rolled out new cleaning programs that aim to be more thorough than before.

Both airlines are hoping that cleaner planes make their service more attractive to customers, especially as demand for air travel wanes. Not surprisingly, passengers are taking note. The Tribune reports United's passenger ratings for cabin cleanliness have increased sixfold since September while American has seen complaints about dirty planes fall by 40 percent since it began its new cleaning program last year.

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According to the Tribune, increasing the frequency of "heavy cleans," which is an "intensive scrubbing of the passenger cabin, done every 30 days at many carriers, in which every surface is swabbed, carpet shampooed, nooks and crannies scoured and seat cushion removed and searched for stains," is the centerpiece of United's program. "United's aircraft typically would languish for six months between 'heavy' cleans, and sometimes as long as every 18 months," but now are being done as often as every 15 days.

American and United both came in the top five (or bottom, depending on how you look at it) in the dirtiest cabin category of our Readers' Choice Awards, with American garnering over 15 percent of the vote, good for second, and United coming in third with over 14 percent (US Airways came in first, if you're wondering). It's no surprise, then, that they each felt it necessary to improve their cleaning procedures. But how important is cleanliness, and will cleaner planes be enough to woo customers? We'll just have to see. In the meantime, I'd like to know what you think, so leave a comment below with your thoughts. Thanks!

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