A man wheels sparkling clean luggage carts beside the baggage claim area in an airport

Op-Ed: How disinfection will define travel in 2020 and beyond

RGN OP-ED Banner with blue back ground and black wingtipThis is an Op-Ed contribution from ABM president of aviation Alex Marren

For many of us, long, socially-distanced days in quarantine are made better by the hope that someday—hopefully soon—we’ll dust off our passports, pack our bags, and head out on a new adventure to see the world, reunite with loved ones, and maybe even check a few travel destinations off our bucket list.

As travelers approach a return to “business as usual,” it will be crucial for the aviation industry to rise to the occasion and provide the safety and peace of mind that comes with a robust cleaning and disinfection strategy.

How will travelers know it’s safe to get on the plane? How can airports and airlines show customers and potential customers that they are prioritizing health and virus protection?

It all comes down to safety that is seen —now is the time to invest in facilities solutions that not only get the job done, but also actively demonstrate the cleaning and disinfection that will make air travel comfortable and appealing once more.


Here are three important considerations we see when approaching airline and airport disinfection as a passenger, employee, or business leader in the aviation industry:

  1. Know the value of partnering with a proven facilities solutions provider

With the onset of the global health crisis ushered in by the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been no shortage of virus remediation claims. With products and procedures hitting the market at breakneck speed, false promises are rampant. That’s why it’s especially important for organizations to partner with facilities solutions providers that have the resources and expertise to vet products and procedures, examine the science and results, and invest in the development and delivery of meaningful disinfection solutions.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, ABM has established the Expert Advisory Council in partnership with leading infectious disease experts and industrial hygienists. Based on the input of this diverse group, ABM designed its EnhancedClean program—a three-step approach that delivers healthy spaces through disinfection specialists and expert-backed processes. Our council of experts advises us regularly, guiding the development of our overall program, disinfection processes, and training materials. And because ABM has the resources to invest in the right processes, supplies, training, and communication, the EnhancedClean program is guiding our aviation clients in best practices to prevent the spread of disease and return to normal operations as safely as possible.

  1. Spot the janitor

What 9/11 did to the travel industry and to airport security protocols, COVID-19 is doing to airport cleaning procedures. The days of janitorial staff operating “behind the scenes” in airports are behind us forever; now, airports and airlines must demonstrate that they are doing everything they can to safeguard the health of travelers. Just like people walking into an airport expect to see security, now travelers are going to expect to see cleaning in a way that they had never seen before.

Especially when it comes to high-touch surfaces like door handles, railings, and arm rests, comprehensive disinfection means that you should be able to see facilities solutions experts in action on your next trip to the airport. Janitorial staff should have a visible presence in the air travel experience. While techniques such as electrostatic spraying and UV disinfection are important investments that tend to take place after-hours when occupants leave a facility, there are plenty of disinfection practices and products that are instrumental in preventing the spread of disease when undertaken in high-traffic times and places.

  1. Signage is your friend

Seeing is believing — signage that encourages social distancing and good hygiene practices, in addition to informing travelers of the disinfection and cleaning procedures in place, goes a long way towards providing a sense of safety and peace of mind. For clients, employees, passengers, and the public, the aviation industry needs to have a strong story to tell around cleaning and disinfection in order to restore participation in air travel. Signage can act as a “proof point,” to signal this priority to all who engage with an aviation brand. Beyond this, signage invites awareness: without making substantial investments in a disinfection strategy, a company will not feel confident in calling attention to it. Once there is a robust plan in place to keep airplanes, airports, and other significant spaces as healthy and clean as possible, showing it off with signage is the best next step.

Just as these three considerations will be critical as we take flight in a “return to normalcy,” it’s important for us to do our homework to understand the cleaning and disinfection standards that will have a lasting impact on the aviation industry.

About Alex Marren, President of Aviation, ABM

With more than 25 years of aviation experience, Alex Marren is President of ABM’s Aviation Group. She is responsible for all aspects of the company’s global aviation business, with 22,000 dedicated team members providing service excellence to airlines and 75+ airports across the U.S., U.K., Ireland and the Middle East.

Prior to joining ABM, Alex was the Executive Vice President, North American Rent-A-Car Operations, for Hertz Corp. Alex has extensive experience leading large, complex and distributed operating organizations, including for PeopleExpress, United Airlines, and ExpressJet. Alex is a graduate of Harvard University and Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management’s Advanced Executive certificate program. She has served on the boards of the Chicago and Atlanta Chapters of the American Red Cross. She is a sponsor for the organization Advancing Women’s Excellence in Supply Chain, Operations and Education.

Image at top credited to ABM

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