Legacy Asian carriers are facing fierce competitions in the region, with low cost carriers offering significantly cheaper fares that appeal to ultra price-sensitive customers. Singapore Airlines has their Scoot venture, which is aimed at the leisure market and traditional LCC audience. Cathay Pacific is feeling some of the pressure, especially since they had been hedging fuel and losing money from that.
According to the South China Morning Post, Cathay Pacific will be reducing their aircraft deep-cleaning frequency. Currently, the airline adheres to a fixed 14-day cleaning schedule, but will soon move to a flexible schedule, deep cleaning aircraft every 3 to 4 weeks. Presumably, this change will help the airline save on maintenance cost, and open up a bit more flexibility in terms of aircraft utilization. Rupert Hogg, Cathay Pacific’s COO, responded by saying, “some people might think it is a cost-cutting measure but of course we have no intention of flying dirty aircraft”. Well, he’s not exactly denying that it’s a cost cutting measure..
To my knowledge, the aircraft galleys and “common areas” are cleaned after every flight. For example, I was on a Cathay Pacific’s flight from New York to Hong Kong—the one that makes a stop in Vancouver. Janitorial crew came onboard while we stopped in Vancouver to vacuum the carpet, etc. This post-flight cleaning isn’t going away, to my knowledge.
According to the same SCMP article, the deep cleaning process is pretty involved, and takes 3 – 4 hours.
It entails lifting up seat cushions and cleaning and disinfecting them as well as wiping and cleaning the seat frame. Seat backs, TV screens, plastic storage bins and tray tables are also cleaned. Windows, closets and overhead bins are wiped, cabin crew galleys are more intensively cleaned and toilets are dismantled and thoroughly cleaned.
With the reduction in the deep-cleaning frequency, Cathay Pacific says that they will increase the number of work hours per deep clean. To be honest, a 4-week interval doesn’t seem all that outrageous. Though of course the results of the process mean much more than the number of hours spent or the frequency of it.
“Deep cleaning” might mean different things for different airlines, but for comparison’s sake, American cleans their aircraft carpets and tray tables every 30 days. Delta does so every 90 to 100 days, when their aircraft undergo regular maintenance. Meanwhile, United deep-cleans their aircraft every 35 to 55 days, depending on the aircraft type.
Hey, I know an airline that might benefit from increasing their deep cleaning frequency and perhaps lifting up seat cushions while doing so…