United Airlines aims to deliver “an industry-leading standard of cleanliness,” which is why it is partnering with Clorox and the Cleveland Clinic.
The airline is launching United CleanPlus, which it says will put health and safety at the forefront of the entire customer experience. It chose to enlist Clorox because it is “a most trusted brand in surface disinfection” and Cleveland Clinic, which has "top medical experts.”
The two entities will inform and guide United's new cleaning, safety and social distancing protocols that includes touchless kiosks in select locations for baggage check-in, sneeze guards, mandatory face coverings for crew and customers, and giving customers options when flights are fuller.
Clorox products will first roll out at United's hub airports in Chicago and Denver and will be used in the gate and terminal areas, with additional locations to follow.
Experts at the Cleveland Clinic provided guidance on the airline's policies and procedures to help ensure they meet or exceed industry standards.
Hygiene is where all airlines are focusing their marketing attention, says Henry H. Harteveldt, president of Atmosphere Research Group and a travel industry analyst.
“United is doing a lot, and its partnership with the Cleveland Clinic is both smart and valuable,” Harteveldt tells Marketing Daily. “I believe United is also the only U.S. airline that has an in-house medical manager on-staff -- though the person is not a doctor.”
The partnership with Clorox is less compelling, he says.
“Consumers know Clorox as a household cleaning brand,” Harteveldt says. “I don’t know whether Clorox has credibility in industrial use, especially on an airplane. It’s possible there are other cleaning products that are better suited to that environment.”
Despite the moves, United does not have an advantage over Delta, he says.
“Delta has committed to leaving middle seats open through Sept, 30, and is adding flights to support that as it sees customer demand return,” Harteveldt says. “United won’t do this. All they will commit to doing is alerting passengers if a flight is 70% or more full — and even that is inadequate. By the time United lets its passengers know a flight is 70% full, it’s possible other flights may also be full.”
Another thing Delta does that gives it an advantage: Gate agents and flight attendants have the ability to delay flight boarding if they don’t believe a plane has been properly cleaned, he says.
Ultimately, travel recovery will be led by leisure and personal travelers, he notes.
“Business travelers won’t return in force until their travel managers and senior management are confident that employees’ health safety can be protected,” Harteveldt says. “Employers must ethically err on the side of caution.”