The Southwest Team works throughout the day to execute an overall cleaning program built upon standing guidance from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) which is designed with your Safety and comfort in mind.
Southwest aircraft routinely undergo more than six labor hours of cleaning every night. Now, as of March 4, Southwest’s Aircraft Appearance Technicians enhanced our cleaning procedures by expanding the use of an EPA-approved, hospital-grade disinfectant to address human touchpoints across the passenger cabin, flight deck, and lavatories. We invite you to watch this video that highlights examples of our enhanced-cleaning work.
Here are some additional insights into the work we’re doing:
In the Cabin
A multi-step cleaning process, using a hospital-grade disinfectant, is designed to address 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. Our aircraft are maintained throughout the day by Flight Attendants and Ground Operations Agents who board the aircraft between flights to tidy up the cabin for the next boarding of Customers and Employees.
In the Lavatory
Each restroom is receiving more attention via an EPA-registered, hospital-grade disinfectant used on surfaces including mirrors and ceiling panels.
On the Flight Deck
Additional cleaning procedures at night, using a disinfectant, devote extra attention to microphones and control yoke handles used by Pilots.
Clearing the Air
The sophisticated air circulation system that blends fresh air into the cabin on a regular basis throughout each flight also is equipped with a HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) filter, similar to that used in hospitals, to eliminate airborne particulates. Researchers at Harvard have concluded that this air distribution system is so efficient that it "effectively counters the proximity passengers are subject to during flights." Learn more about this research: Letting Research Guide Our Southwest Promise
Securing your Space
Southwest is working diligently to keep our aircraft clean and in a sanitary condition. Still, we know many Customers would prefer to perform their own extra layer of disinfecting with hand sanitizers and sanitizing wipes. That's why we now provide wipes to Customers onboard, upon request. If you bring your own hand or surface sanitizing items onboard, please use items that do not contain bleach, or have “plus bleach” on the label, as they risk damaging hard and soft surfaces. Additionally, we request that Customers not use aerosol or pump-spray cleaners, as these products cannot be contained to your personal space and may impact other Customers in the shared environment of our aircraft cabins.
We know there’s heightened interest in the topic of aircraft cleaning, and we are committed to maintaining our standards and following any new guidance. Additionally, we’re proud to share with you the enhanced work that hundreds of professional Aircraft Appearance Technicians around our system proudly complete each night, on more than 700 airplanes, to increase your comfort while flying with Southwest.
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Blog Updated November 24, 2020, 3:00 pm CT.
When you travel with Southwest Airlines, we have your well-being in mind. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, we've made changes to our operations and procedures to better support the well-being and comfort of our Employees and Customers—and we’ll continue to evaluate our policies and procedures as we learn more. We’ve employed stringent cleaning and physical-distancing practices such as using electrostatic and anti-microbial spray treatments in the cabin, implementing physical-distancing measures, limiting the number of Passengers onboard, modifying boarding procedures, and providing masks for Employees. Learn more about the Southwest Promise and what it all means when you are ready to travel on Southwest.com/Promise.
The Southwest Promise
Facial Coverings Now Required for Travel
Face coverings or masks are now required to be worn in the airport and while flying with us. If you forget your face covering at home, a mask will be available for you. In addition to Customers wearing facial coverings, you can expect our Customer-facing Employees to wear face coverings, too. For more information on our face covering policy, visit our Travel Knowledge Base.
We have implemented stringent, layered cleaning procedures, both onboard and in our airport spaces. To learn more about our cleaning procedures, visit our Travel Knowledge Base.
Distancing in the Airport
We have installed Plexiglass® barriers at ticketing and gate counters to support safer interactions between Customers and Employees. We've also modified our boarding process to occur only in groups of 10 and on one side of our boarding poles. Finally, we've installed signage in airports to encourage distancing and serve as additional reminders. To learn more about our enhanced distancing procedures, visit our Travel Knowledge Base.
HEPA Filtration & Air Ventilation Onboard
All of our aircraft are equipped with High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters, which remove 99.97% of airborne particles—including small particles such as bacteria and viruses. This sophisticated air recirculation system introduces fresh air into the cabin every second, resulting in a complete exchange of cabin air every two to three minutes. We operate this air recirculation system at all points during the travel journey; while boarding, taxiing, inflight, and deplaning. To learn more about our onboard air filtration and ventilation system, visit our Travel Knowledge Base.
Letting Research Guide Our Promise
We are constantly monitoring the latest outcomes of scientific research to guide our actions and protocols. We’re encouraged that much of the latest research validates the effectiveness of utilizing a multi-layered approach, including requiring face masks, enhanced cleaning, and HEPA filtration, to lower the virus transmission risk associated with flying. We encourage you to learn more about this research: Letting Research Guide Our Southwest Promise.
Our Customer-Friendly Policies
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we understand Customers might be uncertain about their travel plans in the months ahead. Southwest offers flexible and Customer-friendly policies designed to provide confidence when your travel plans change.
Canceling Your Southwest Flight and Extension of Travel Funds
If you decide not to travel, as long as you cancel your flight at least 10 minutes before its scheduled departure, the funds used to pay for a nonrefundable ticket (Wanna Get Away® fares) are normally valid for one year from the date of purchase.
However, in recognition of the current travel environment, Travel Funds that are set to expire or funds that are created between March 1, 2020, and September 7, 2020, will have an expiration date of September 7, 2022. This change allows you more time to book your next trip with us utilizing Travel Funds.
Enhancements for our Valued Rapid Rewards® Members
For all Rapid Rewards® Members, we recognize that your normal flying behavior has been interrupted, limiting progress you may have been making toward qualification for A-List, A-List Preferred, and Companion Pass.
For that reason, we are giving all Rapid Rewards® Members a “boost” of 15,000 tier-qualifying points and 10 flight credits toward A-List and A-List Preferred status, and 25,000 Companion Pass qualifying points and 25 flight credits toward Companion Pass status.
You can visit Southwest.com/RRCoronavirusUpdates for additional details, but here are additional highlights:
Rapid Rewards® Members’ Travel Funds
We have added a new benefit for our valued Rapid Rewards® Members. Those Members who have travel funds that are set to expire or funds that are created between March 1, 2020, and September 7, 2020, will have the option to convert those travel funds into Rapid Rewards® points at the same rate you would be able to purchase a ticket with points today. We hope this provides our Members ultimate flexibility as Rapid Rewards® points never expire, never have cancel or change fees (fare difference may apply), and you can redeem your points for anyone you choose.
Extending Tier Status and Companion Pass Benefits
As an airline with Heart, we are extending the benefits earned by our current tier status Members and Companion Pass holders and the expiration date of select travel funds. In addition to this extension, we’re giving tier qualifying points and companion pass qualifying points to all Rapid Rewards® Members to say thank you for bearing with us during this difficult and uncharted time. We’re staying Southwest® Heart Strong for you and will be here with a warm welcome when you’re ready to travel again.
For Companion Pass holders, who earned Companion Pass benefits through December 31, 2020, and for A-List and A-List Preferred Members who earned A-List or A-List Preferred status through December 31, 2020, we are extending your current Companion Pass benefits and A-List or A-List Preferred status through June 30, 2021.
Modified Onboard Service
As of May 22, Southwest began serving cans of water and a snack mix on flights over 251 miles. For all other flights, snack and beverage service is suspended until further notice to limit close interactions. As always, you are welcome to bring along your own snack and non-alcoholic beverages to enjoy while flying with us. To learn more about our modified onboard service, visit our Travel Knowledge Base.
Destinations Experiencing Travel Disruptions & Travel Restrictions
Southwest is aware that government mandates have resulted in restrictions on air travel due to the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. Unfortunately, many of the restrictions will result in flight cancellations, potential quarantines upon arrival, and/or temperature checks upon landing, and we sincerely regret any inconvenience created by the travel disruptions. Visit Southwest.com /Coronavirus to view the most up-to-date travel advisories.
Personal Safety Recommendations
We recommend the CDC’s website as a resource for ways that you can best protect yourself from the virus. Additionally, Customers are encouraged to wash their hands frequently and are welcome to bring hand sanitizers onboard our aircraft as a personal precaution.
Rest assured, Southwest will continue taking action to make our airport and aircraft cabin environments welcoming and reliable for you. Please check the Travel Policies Board in Community for ongoing discussion among Community Members and Community Champions.
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