United Airlines said Wednesday it is using an antimicrobial coating on the seats, trays, bins and bathrooms on 30 planes, with plans to expand the practice to its entire mainline and express fleet by the end of the year. The new coating is part of the airline's efforts to protect passengers from the coronavirus and restore public confidence in flying.
The Zoono Microbe Shield, which United said is an Environmental Protection Agency-registered antimicrobial coating, inhibits the growth of microbes after forming a long-lasting bond with surfaces, according to the carrier. Its use will create an "an extra level of protection on our aircraft to help better protect our employees and customers," Toby Enqvist, United's chief customer officer, said in a statement.
Six months after the U.S. shut down to slow the spread of the pandemic, air travel remains depressed as consumers continue to express caution about its safety. On Tuesday, about 522,000 people passed through TSA airport checkpoints — one-quarter of the more than 2 million people who were screened by this time last year. Airlines, having suffered billion-dollar losses, have upgraded their cleaning standards and assured customers of more space to lure them back.
United said the new coating is part of its "layered approach to safety," which includes a mandatory mask policy for travelers, and HEPA air-filtration systems.
"We've overhauled our policies and procedures and continue to implement new, innovative solutions that deliver a safer onboard experience," Enqvist said.
The Zoono Microbe Shield is being used on United aircraft at Chicago O'Hare International Airport. Over the next few months, United expects to expand its use to its six other domestic hubs and roughly 200 U.S. airports where United aircraft remain overnight. American Airlines uses a similar cleaning spray.