Delta, United, and American are ‘fogging’ their planes to make them safe for travel amid coronavirus — here’s what that means

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A Delta Air Lines employee spraying a disinfectant. Delta Air Lines
  • The three largest airlines in the US are expanding their aircraft cleaning measures to include a new method: fogging.
  • The process includes spraying an electrically-charged and safe to breathe disinfectant on interior aircraft surfaces before the physical cleaning process to ensure germs and viruses are eradicated.
  • American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, and United Airlines have each announced the method will be deployed in their standard cleaning routine.
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The COVID-19 crisis has forced airlines to ground their planes and drastically reduce service as social distancing and stay at home orders are greatly reducing the demand to fly. While many planes are flying with near-empty cabins, air travel, however, still remains essential for some and airlines still need to mitigate the risk of potential exposure for employees and customers.

To put worrying minds at ease for those still travelling and attempt to inspire confidence in the mode of transportation for when travel does eventually bounce back, airlines are introducing new means of cleaning their aircraft interiors to ensure any lingering germs are eradicated.

One of the ways by which airlines are cleaning their cabins in addition to enhancing routine cleanings is through a process called fogging. A relatively simple method, fogging kills any potential germs or pathogens and has been introduced by Delta Air Lines, American Airlines, and United Airlines, the three largest airlines in the US by fleet size.

The germ-killing fog blankets the aircraft before cleaners board the plane and physically clean each surface. Take a look at how fogging is keeping planes safe for travel despite cases of COVID-19 continuing to climb around the world.


Delta Air Lines first began fogging its aircraft in February when concerns about the spread of the coronavirus outside of China were growing, focusing on those coming from the Asia-Pacific region.

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A Delta Air Lines Boeing 767. Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto/Getty

Source: Delta Air Lines


The process is simple and includes a ground service agent spraying each surface of the aircraft with a fogging machine that sprays a disinfectant that sticks to surfaces but is safe to breathe.

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A Delta Air Lines employee spraying a disinfectant. Delta Air Lines

Source: Delta Air Lines


“The fogging procedure uses a high-grade, EPA-registered disinfectant and virucide that is highly effective against many communicable diseases, including coronaviruses,” said Delta in a March 13 news release. “It is safe for customers and crew immediately after it’s applied.”

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A Delta Air Lines employee spraying a disinfectant. Delta Air Lines

Source: Delta Air Lines


Delta later announced that all of its transoceanic would have the disinfectant applied via fogging after Europe became a hotspot for the virus.

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A Delta Air Lines employee spraying a disinfectant. Delta Air Lines

Source: Delta Air Lines


United Airlines later announced that it, too, would be fogging aircraft interiors in addition to its enhanced cleaning regiment for cabins.

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A United Airlines Boeing 787 Dreamliner. David McNew/Getty Images

Source: United Airlines


The airline first announced that its international arrivals to Newark Liberty International Airport on wide-body aircraft would initially receive the treatment. United later expanded the scope to include all international arrivals to US hubs including Hawaii and Guam.

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United Airlines planes at George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston. ASSOCIATED PRESS

Source: United Airlines


United didn’t respond to request for comment on whether domestic flights would receive the treatment.

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The interior of a United Airlines regional jet. United Airlines

American Airlines similarly announced that fogging would be expanded and included in its aircraft cabin cleaning routine.

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An American Airlines Airbus A321 aircraft. REUTERS/Mike Blake

Source: American Airlines


American identified 11 surface points that would be targeted for fogging including seats, in-flight entertainment screens, tray tables, overhead bins, and lavatories, among others.

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Empty rows on an American Airlines flight due to COVID-19. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

Source: American Airlines


Fogging will occur during scheduled overnight cleanings, the airline stated in an updated news release.

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American Airlines Boeing 777-300ER at New York’s JFK Airport. William Perugini/shutterstock

Source: American Airlines


The fog is electrically-charged allowing it to stick to surfaces once applied for maximum effect.

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A Delta Air Lines employee spraying a disinfectant. Delta Air Lines

All three airlines use an EPA-approved disinfectant that poses no threat to passengers. Similar disinfectants are used in hospitals to combat the spread of pathogens.

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A Delta team member disinfects a plane cabin using a fogging procedure. Delta Air Lines

Source: Delta Air Lines,United Airlines, and American Airlines


Delta announced that its fogging measures will be expanded to nightly for every aircraft on April 1 and later in May to before every flight.

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A Delta Air Lines employee spraying a disinfectant. Delta Air Lines

Source: Delta Air Lines


The process on all airlines is also compounded by a physical, thorough cleaning of the surfaces that are most commonly touched on aeroplanes.

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A Delta Air Lines employee spraying a disinfectant. Delta Air Lines

Source: Delta Air Lines,United Airlines, and American Airlines


The method has expanded beyond the airlines with private aircraft operators also adopting similar means of disinfecting aircraft.

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Two Gulfstream G650s ARND WIEGMANN/Reuters

Both Jet Linx and Flexjet, two of the largest private jet operators in the US, have announced that their fleets will also be undergoing disinfecting procedures similar to fogging.

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The cabin of a Falcon 2000 private jet. Thomas Pallini/Business Insider

Source: Jet Linx and FlexJet