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Airlines Step Up Hygiene to Keep Covid Out of the Air

Robots, UV lights, and virus-killing seat covers are in the works.
The UV-Vector Air Robotic Device disinfecting an Air India Express plane.

The UV-Vector Air Robotic Device disinfecting an Air India Express plane.

Courtesy: Air India

In that long-ago time before the pandemic, most travelers chose an airline based on a single, straightforward factor: price. And those who didn’t grab the cheapest fare typically steered their business toward a carrier where they had frequent-flyer miles. Cleanliness, by contrast, barely registered.

These days, hygiene is the most important factor in choosing a travel company for almost 60% of Americans, according to a survey by aerospace products manufacturer Honeywell International Inc. That tracks with International Air Transport Association data showing that passengers worry about boarding planes, with 42% of them uncomfortable using lavatories and more than a third concerned about breathing recirculated cabin air. “We know that our customers are more conscious than ever about hygiene,” says Anil Jain, engineering chief at Air India Express, which has introduced robots to clean its planes. “We need to be proactive.”