Health and industry experts answer top questions

Q&A with industry experts:

What parts of Alaska Airlines’ planes get cleaned after each flight?

We’ve always had robust cleaning processes on our aircraft and will continue using disinfectants that are effective against viruses to ensure the safety of our guests and employees. As an extra level of precaution, we’ve implemented an enhanced aircraft cleaning process between our flights that are on the ground longer than an hour at our hubs. We’re focusing more attention on the areas of the cabin which are touched most frequently such as arm rests, seat belts, tray tables, overhead controls including air vents, light buttons, call buttons and exterior and interior door handles to lavatories. All our aircraft that remain on the ground overnight get a thorough cleaning. In addition, our crews are also cleaning front and back of seats, window shades and handles to carry-on compartments– Celley Buchanan, Director of Operations Support Services 

Do Alaska Airlines’ airplanes use HEPA filters in the air vents? If so, how effective are they and how many planes have them?  

Yes. Every Alaska Airlines aircraft uses High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters as part of our recirculation air systems. HEPA filters are believed to be effective to 99.95% or greater in removing particulate contaminants in the air. Through a combination of outside air and recirculated air, the air in the cabin is completely replaced by our air flow system approximately every 2 to 3 minutes.  Constance von Muehlen, Senior Vice President of Maintenance and Engineering 

What is Alaska Airlines doing to sanitize its gates, Hubs?

At every airport we serve, we’re encouraging our employees to sanitize work areas before and after they perform tasks, including gate and check-in counters, kiosks, bag sizers and stanchions. The safety of our guests and employees is our top priority. We are also working with our janitorial partners and teams at airports we serve to set up additional cleaning runs to sanitize work surfaces. – Wayne Newton, Vice President of Airport Operations & Customer Service 

Amid the COVID-19 outbreak, the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) announced it’s taking extra measures to safeguard the health of its employees and passengers at its facilities. Actions include increasing cleaning frequency at high-touch point areas, including escalator handrails, elevator buttons and ticketing kiosks and installing more hand sanitizer at security checkpoints, jet bridges, boarding gate locations and ground transportation centers. 

What about in Alaska’s Lounges?

New: We’ve made the difficult decision to temporarily close all of our lounges, except our location at Seattle-Tacoma Airport in the D Concourse. Read more.

While the COVID-19 situation continues to evolve, we’re operating as safely as possible in our lounges, taking every precaution we can to reduce the spread of germs. At the reception areas, we’ve paused the use of fingerprint scanners and added multiple hand sanitizer bottles at the check-in desk. We also encourage you to hold out your boarding pass to our staff, rather than passing your phone or boarding pass to them. At our buffet area, you’ll continue to see our team members wearing gloves. We have also increased the frequency that we wipe down surfaces with sanitizing solution and wipes. At the buffet, we’re frequently replacing serveware (especially tongs and serving spoons) and at the bar we’re only pouring into new glasses. We’re also encouraging guests to #FillBeforeYouFly. We’ve reduced the water towers to prevent personal water bottles from touching the spouts. Instead, we encourage you to use one of our water bottle filling stations or head to the bar and we will fill up your water bottle for you. Read latest lounge updates – Alex Judson, Lounge Product Manager 

Q&A with health experts:

We know that the HEPA filters in Alaska Airlines aircraft are robust and effective at filtering many pathogens from the air. But does this coronavirus float around in the air?

At this time, there is no evidence that the virus floats in the air leading to infection farther away. Current understanding about how the virus that causes coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) spreads is largely based on what is known about similar coronaviruses. The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person. 

  • Between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet). 
  • Through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. 

It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads. The virus is fragile and does not live long on surfaces.  

If I travel, what are some things I can do to prevent getting sick?

Great question!  Probably the most important thing you can do to prevent getting sick while traveling is to wash your hands frequently.  This means washing your hands not only before eating and after using the bathroom, but also multiple times throughout the day.  Another helpful recommendation is to wipe down high touch surfaces, like tray tables and arm rests. 

Are children or older adults more susceptible to the virus that causes COVID-19 compared with the general population?

There is a lot more to learn about this virus but so far it looks like it doesn’t peer to be very harmful for children.  For most healthy adults this infection may be more like the flu.  At the same time, it does seem to be much more dangerous for older adults and people who have medical issues with their hearts, lungs and kidneys or who may be immunosuppressed. 

How effective is wearing a mask or gloves?

The CDC, who advise the country on public health, recommends against people who are healthy wearing a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory illnesses, including COVID-19. A facemask should be used by people who are ill or show symptoms of having the virus. This is to protect others from the risk of getting infected. Just like masks, gloves are not recommended if the person is not contacting blood or bodily fluids.  We know the people who often wear gloves do not wash their hands as much, which is the most important thing we can do to prevent getting COVID-19, influenza or many other infections.

John Lynch, M.D., M.P.H., is a board-certified physician and medical director of Harborview’s Infection Control, Antibiotic Stewardship and Employee Health programs. Dr. Lynch is also a UW associate professor of Medicine and Allergy and Infectious Diseases. He earned his M.D. and M.P.H. from the University of Washington. He conducts research on healthcare-associated infections. At the UW School of is a board-certified physician and medical director of Harborview’s Infection Control, Antibiotic Stewardship and Employee Health programs. Dr. Lynch is also a UW associate professor of Medicine and Allergy and Infectious Diseases. He earned his M.D. and M.P.H. from the University of Washington. He conducts research on healthcare-associated infections. At the UW School of Medicine. 

Chloe Bryson-Cahn, MD has a master’s degree from the University of Washington School of Public Health and graduated from Temple University Lewis Katz School of Medicine. She completed a residency at UCLA Medical Center and currently practices at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, WA.

 

 

 

Posted: 3 p.m. PT March 6

%d bloggers like this: