Test any surface inside an airplane, from your tray table to the bathroom’s flush button, and you’ll find big families of bacteria. Airplane cabins are notorious for trapping and ferrying viruses around the world—which is one explanation for why everyone you know seems to get sick after traveling for the holidays. A way to combat this issue is with deeper cabin cleanings between flights. As Travel + Leisure reports, that’s just what the GermFalcon UVC Airplane Cabin Sanitizer was designed to do.
The robot looks like a snack trolley with two collapsible “wings” mounted on top. Metal arms outfitted with ultraviolet C light bulbs unfold above the seats and incinerate any bacteria that land in its path. An apparatus built above head-level shines the germ-zapping rays into the overhead bins. After scanning the aisles, the machine moves on to the bathrooms and galleys. Its creators claim that a five-minute cleaning from the GermFalcon eliminates over 99 percent of the bacteria, viruses, and superbugs that human hands may have missed.
Despite the risk captive viruses pose to passengers and crew members on flights, many airlines still follow the most basic cleaning procedures. The industry standard is a quick cabin cleaning between flights with a deep scrub-down every four months.
And without regulations enforcing stricter cleaning practices, most flight companies aren’t eager to go the extra mile. The GermFalcon has yet to be adopted by a commercial airline, even though the company estimates it would cost companies just $.10 per seat per flight to use it.
If airlines do eventually raise their cleanliness standards, that won’t solve all their health issues. Completely disinfecting the cabin before each flight does nothing to safeguard fliers against the sick passengers sitting next to them. To protect yourself on your next flight, take advantage of the air vent above your seat. It’s a misconception that the air spreads germs: The current can actually blow away microbes encroaching your space. And don’t forget to pack a travel-sized bottle of hand sanitizer in your carry-on.
[h/t Travel + Leisure]