Travel | September 9, 2022 3:26 pm

An Answer to the Age-Old Question: Whose Job Is It to Clean the Plane?

A couple of videos making the rounds on social media have passengers questioning cleaning policies — and flight attendants are pushing back.

Men in protective suits and masks clean a plane

Given, er, recent events, it’s hard not to feel like planes are absolutely teeming with imperceptible germs, despite what airlines would have you believe. It’s why I now board every plane palms up, ready to receive communion in the form of a fresh airline-branded sanitizing wipe for which to cleanse my seat and seatback tray table with. Usually that’s enough to temper my unease, until, of course, I go to stash said (used) wipe in the seatback pocket and it’s filled with other used sanitizing wipes from other flights.

And sometimes the grime is more perceptible than even that. Such was the case on a recent Ryanair flight from the Canary Islands to London. In a viral TikTok, which has since garnered 2.3 million views and north of 2,000 comments, passengers are met with a (not even fine) layer of potato chips coating both the floor and, somehow, several rows of seats upon boarding.

“We boarded the dirtiest Ryanair flight ever today…Cabin crew told us they don’t clean between flights,” user @scottandsals wrote. Unsurprisingly, the clip ignited a lively — and moderately chaotic — debate surrounding who is responsible for cleaning up between flights if not the cabin crew.


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♬ Stereo Love – Short Ver – Jericho

Similarly, in another recent clip from a domestic Qantas flight, a passenger named Ross Matthews can be seen thumping the seat next to him several times, causing a thick cloud of what appears to be dust to erupt.

“[I]n 2022 i have taken 23 flights all with virgin (domestic) and jetstar (international) until last week, when i flew to perth and back with qantas, these flights were both the most expensive flights (more than hawaii and thailand) but also the worst flights i have ever been on, staff were rude, food was crap and the plane was an absolute disgrace as you can see here … honestly what is going on with Qantas its gone from national treasure to national embarrassment,” Matthews captioned the video

I’m sure you’re wondering how this could be true when the plane is allegedly cleaned between every flight because same. Unsurprisingly, it comes down to a shortage of time. So as not to slow down the process and invariably cause delays, the crew is likely to focus on the other more obviously dirty areas like the bathrooms, as opposed to seatback tray tables and windows — or, apparently, potato chip massacres. But if it’s not the cabin crew’s job, then whose is it?

According to a new report from The New York Times, most major airlines have done away with the professional cleaning crews that were being deployed between flights in an effort to combat the spread of COVID — mostly because it’s been proven that the rate of transmission from surfaces is extremely low. Further, most cleaning policies vary from airline to airline.

American Airlines reportedly still brings in cleaning crews between flights, while JetBlue only does so for international flights. Southwest flight attendants are expected to complete “light tidying” between flights. That said, in almost every scenario, flight attendants are not expected to perform any manner of deep cleaning. Rather, the job should fall on separate cleaning crews — how often that happens, or whether or not it happens, is another story.

To me, however, there is an obvious lesson to be gleaned here, which is this: passengers need to take more accountability where plane cleanliness is involved. There is literally no reason for anyone to be throwing garbage on the floor of the aircraft, let alone an entire potato chip bag’s worth of crumbs. Grow up.