Each day WestJet 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. That’s the population of Quebec and Ontario combined passing through the doors of our aircraft.
Grooming is a point of pride for our team and 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 hyper-focused groom every year.
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.
Yearly, our aircraft receive an enhanced detail groom using additional tools that are hyper-focused on cleaning hidden areas such as vents. These enhanced grooms take approximately 150 hours to complete.
All of 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.
As the aircraft are public spaces and are not guaranteed to be sterile, we encourage our guests and employees to travel with their own regulation-size hand sanitizers or wipes (in containers 100 ml/100 g or less).
As per your findings regarding on-board blankets, we are looking into this matter further as all blankets sold on our flights are new (not previously used) and come sealed straight from the distributor.
Since our inception in 1996, all WestJet employees have been expected to groom aircraft on travel to/from Canada and the continental U.S. except in certain circumstances where an employee groom is not required. As we continue to expand our fleet and global footprint we have increased contracted grooms in certain destinations as some routes and aircraft require different grooming than others.
Employee grooms and contracted grooms are separate activities. Employee grooms begin as soon as deplaning commences, while contracted grooms facilitated by non-WestJet employees begin once the last guest has deplaned.
A lot has changed at WestJet over the years (from three aircraft to more than 160 aircraft today) and a lot has changed with grooming. From grooming on small point-to-point on one hour domestic legs on 737-200 aircraft to now flying six to seven hour legs on our 767 or 737 MAX where we offer greater meal and service offerings - the resultant trash has increased as well. From a contract perspective, at this point in time we have more contract grooms in our network than ever before. We have seen a 20 per cent increase in contract grooms over the past three years and our grooming budget has seen the additional investment of millions of dollars. We have been very responsive to our employees and our changing network/fleet when it comes to grooming and are focused on aligning the grooming pieces for the greatest benefit of our guests and our employees.
As the attached 2018 scientific paper published by Microbial Ecology* shows, the microbial environment in public places, including airlines, is a subject of general scientific interest and is not a phenomenon specific to Air Canada, where we adhere to guidelines set by the World Health Organization and Public Health Agency of Canada for cabin grooming. I draw your attention to this particular paragraph for inclusion as balancing context in your report:
“Despite the uniqueness of the airplane cabin as a built environment, our findings are surprisingly consistent with other recent studies of the microbiome of built environments. This consistency is reassuring in light of frequent sensationalistic media stories about dangerous germs found on airplanes. For this reason, there is no more risk from 4 to 5 hours spent in an airplane cabin than 4–5 hours spent in an office, all other exposures being the same. Our microbiome characterization also provides a baseline for non-crisis level airplane microbiome conditions.”
Please see: www.news.gatech.edu/2018/06/06/aircraft-microbiome-much-homes-and-offices-study-finds
* Microbial Ecology is a dedicated international forum for the presentation of high-quality scientific investigations of how microorganisms interact with their environment, with each other and with their hosts. It offers articles of original research in full paper and note formats, as well as brief reviews, commentaries and topical position papers. The journal was founded more than 50 years ago by Dr. Ralph Mitchell, Gordon McKay Professor of Applied Biology at Harvard University in Cambridge, MA. It has evolved to become a premier location for the presentation of manuscripts that represent advances in the field of microbial ecology. Coverage includes the ecology of microorganisms in natural and engineered environments; genomic, metagenomic and molecular advances in understanding of microbial interactions; microbial diversity and phylogeny; microbial drivers of biogeochemical processes; inter- and intraspecific microbial communication; ecological studies of human, animal, plant and insect microbiology and disease; microbial processes and interactions in extreme or unusual environments; microbial population, community ecology, technological developments and more. Our dedicated Editorial Board ensures that only the highest quality manuscripts are rapidly published.
We adhere to guidelines set by the World Health Organization and Public Health Agency of Canada for cabin grooming and refer you to the study already provided, an investigation by seven scientists published in Microbial Ecology, a highly reputable scientific journal. It found: “Despite the uniqueness of the airplane cabin as a built environment, our findings are surprisingly consistent with other recent studies of the microbiome of built environments. This consistency is reassuring in light of frequent sensationalistic media stories about dangerous germs found on airplanes. For this reason, there is no more risk from 4 to 5 hours spent in an airplane cabin than 4–5 hours spent in an office, all other exposures being the same.”
The facts that Boeing participated in the study and that it was conducted on other, non-Canadian carriers merely reinforce the point that this is a subject of general scientific interest and is not specific to any particular airline.
Porter maintains a thorough aircraft grooming program to ensure that planes are regularly cleaned. These protocols correspond with Public Health Agency of Canada and World Health Organization guidelines.
This starts with general grooming in between each flight. Once an aircraft is done flying for the day, teams clean the interior from nose to tail. In addition, every aircraft in our fleet is scheduled for intensive cleaning every three weeks. Ad hoc cleaning occurs as needed.
We are confident in our processes as part of efforts to ensure a safe environment in every way for our team members and passengers. Past Public Health audits of Porter have shown no findings.