WestJet responds to CBC Marketplace: ‘Filthy Flights’ what are the dirtiest airplane surfaces?

WestJet, along with Air Canada and Porter, were the subject of a report on aircraft cleanliness that aired on CBC Marketplace on October 26, 2018. While we thank CBC for providing us the opportunity to respond to their inquiries, the report failed to fully represent our responses and we believe this type of selective and sensational coverage contributes to the myths related to air travel causing people to get sick.

We stand by the grooming work of our inflight, flight operations, ground staff teams and travelling employees with pride and reject the idea that we tolerate lower standards of cleanliness than other airlines or transportation service providers.

Additionally, we believe the piece also failed to capture an appropriate sample size to reflect our fleet by only testing six short-haul flights out of the hundreds of flights we operate a day. Furthermore, the testing program was entirely focused in Canada and did not compare airlines around the world, against whom we believe that WestJet’s cleanliness stacks up.

Volume of traffic through our aircraft

Each day our airline operates approximately 700 flights and transports nearly 80,000 guests to more than 100 destinations in North America, Central America, the Caribbean and Europe. We hold ourselves to the highest standard and strive to create an environment as clean as realistically possible given the fact that our aircraft are essentially public spaces. Some 22 million people a year sit in our seats.

Our grooming program

Grooming is a point of pride for our team, and grooming by our WestJet team contributes directly to owners taking care of their products along with easing the work of our cleaners and groomers in Technical Operations.

WestJet follows a strict grooming program, working in close partnership with Health Canada who approve our airplane grooming standards and frequently perform audits on our aircraft. Our aircraft are given a light groom after every flight, a full groom every 24-hours, a complete interior detail monthly and an enhanced groom annually as part of WestJet’s maintenance program.

WestJet’s 24-hour full grooms entail cleaning and disinfecting of the entire cabin including galleys, lavatories and the flight deck. All cleaning, sanitizing and disinfecting products used are approved by Health Canada, as well as the aircraft manufacturer, to properly disinfect against a broad spectrum of gram-negative and gram-positive organisms such as e-coli, fungicide and mold.

During the monthly groom our aircraft undergo a complete interior detail clean which can take upwards of 45 man-hours to complete.

Enhanced grooming

Yearly, our aircraft receive an enhanced detail groom using additional tools that clean hidden areas such as vents. These enhanced grooms take approximately 150 man-hours to complete.

All our flights receive different levels of grooming throughout the day’s operation, which includes cleaning and sanitization of all lavatories, vacuuming of cabin floors, and the cleaning and disinfecting of cabin seat tray tables.

Blanket hygiene

Our on-board blankets sold on board are manufactured to specification and are sealed in a poly bag prior to being shipped to WestJet. As a mass-produced product we understand issues can arise from time to time, however, we believe the blanket issue raised in the story was an isolated incident and have not received any other complaints regarding on-board blankets for purchase. As explained to @CBC, we are following up with our supplier to raise our concerns regarding the findings of the report and will rectify the situation should they make us aware that this was not an isolated incident.

Clean air

One last point; each WestJet aircraft is equipped with an industry-leading air circulation system containing a HEPA filter, similar to what is used in hospital environments. These filters achieve a viral removal efficiency of greater than 99.99909 per cent and bacterial removal efficiency of greater than 99.99996 per cent. This rating is based on the 0.3 micron contaminant benchmark – considerably smaller than animal dander, which is approximately 2.5 microns in size.

It is also important to know that WestJet’s Boeing Next-Generation 737 aircraft introduces fresh air into the cabin every two to three minutes (20 to 30 air changes per hour). The idea that all aircraft air is recirculated is a common misconception.

And overall, while we do our best to ensure a clean environment, a sterile environment is something that we cannot guarantee – and we encourage you to take your health into your own hands as well by bringing your own regulation-size hand sanitizers or wipes (in containers 100 ml/100 g or less), washing your hands often while travelling, and staying home if you are sick.