United adds coronavirus UVC light cleaning protocol for pilots as pandemic continues

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United Airlines will clean the flight decks of its planes with ultraviolet light, which will sanitize the cockpits and reduce the need for people who are not trained pilots to touch the sensitive equipment.

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Most of the airline’s pilot flight decks will be disinfected with Ultraviolet C light technology when located safely in an airport hub, the company shared in a Thursday press release. The advanced cleaning method will utilize handheld AUVCo blades from the UV light sterilization company, American Ultraviolet, which are designed to kill viruses without contact.

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"Flight decks have many working parts, screens and components that are challenging to clean with traditional hand wipes and liquids, especially for someone who isn't a pilot,” United's Senior Vice President of Flight Operations Bryan Quigley said in a statement. “The UVC lighting gives us a faster, more effective disinfection of one of the most important areas of the aircraft."

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When activated, the blades will be hovered over the “sensitive switches and touch screen displays within the flight deck” and should likely sanitize these critical surfaces for pilots.

The announcement was made a day after United Airlines said it has updated its coronavirus mask policy to keep passengers safe, the company has made it a point to show that it’s looking out for the health of commercial airline pilots as well with a new cleaning protocol.

United's use of ultraviolet light comes from the airline’s partnership with Cleveland Clinic – an American academic medical center that has been providing the company health and safety guidance throughout the pandemic.

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"United implementing UVC lighting in its flight decks is an important tactic because we know that the virus can be killed by ultraviolet light," said Dr. James Merlino, a chief clinical transformation officer at Cleveland Clinic. "It's one more measure that we can implement to ensure that we're doing all we can to keep passengers, flight attendants and crews safer."

Throughout aircraft cabins, United is using electrostatic sprayers to disinfect surfaces before customers, pilots and other flight crew board. The method is targeted at sanitizing hard-to-reach overhead bins, tray tables and other high-touch spots.

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Currently, the flight deck will be the only area that receives UVC light and electrostatic spraying treatments.

Additional details about United’s cleaning protocols can be found at United CleanPlus, the company’s published health and safety commitment.

Alternatively, customers can text the airline directly with any cleaning-related questions they may have, which began last week. Texting "Clean" to FLYUA (35982) will connect customers to a United Automated Assistant.

In late June, Alaska Airlines began testing UV light treatments to combat the novel coronavirus. By late July, JetBlue began its own UV light tests.

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United lost $1.6 billion in the second-quarter of 2020, according to its most recent earnings report.

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