A lot of foot traffic, a long list of clean air concerns and a massive undertaking of surfaces to clean. Sound familiar? The airline industry is more like the senior living industry than you might think—and most importantly, both focus on serving our communities in the most safe and healthy way possible.
After holding a series of information gathering sessions that focused on designing in a post-COVID world for senior living, Ryan Companies was still not done learning. Ryan Companies Board Member and Owner of Radius Living, Brian Wenger, and Ryan Companies’ Senior Vice President of Senior Living, Julie Ferguson, decided to tap an organization that was leading the way within a similar yet different industry, Delta Air Lines.
During an exclusive webinar with Delta, Radius Living and our partners, we heard from Delta’s Chief Customer Experience Officer, Bill Lentsch, and Vice President of Global Cleanliness, Mike Medeiros. They shared how the airline developed and executed new sanitation practices and COVID-19 protocols, which aligned to similar methods that the senior living industry has been exploring.
According to Lentsch, Delta recognized—like many companies—that they needed expert guidance to help navigate the health and safety impacts of the pandemic when it first broke out. They quickly engaged partners like Mayo Clinic and Emory Healthcare and later hired their first ever Chief Health Officer, Dr. Henry Ting. The airline also created a new Global Cleanliness division, dedicated to innovating and evolving its already-high cleanliness standards. Part of this innovation included hosting ”Innovation Day” events, where companies pitched ideas on how to improve cleanliness, given the challenges COVID-19 presented. This exercise helped Delta decide which methods fit best with its goals, budget and overall strategy.
The following information highlights some of the mutual ways the airlines and senior living industries can improve cleanliness conditions with a few specific examples of how Delta and Ryan have kept people safe and minds at ease.
Air Quality: upgrade filtration methodology to ensure high quality airflow.
When COVID-19 surfaced, Delta evaluated all maintenance programs and decided to replace their onboard hospital-grade HEPA filters at twice the rate recommended by the aircraft manufacturer. The company also upgraded their filters for jet bridges and air facilities to ensure optimal air flow and even began testing the use of UV lighting in Delta Sky Clubs to help kill the airborne virus. Senior living communities across the country have taken comparable steps to promote healthy environments. In fact, Ryan Companies, in partnership with our operators, has explored and even implemented some of the following:
- Needlepoint bipolar ionization
- UV lighting in HVAC systems
- HEPA filters in HVAC systems
- Negative pressure in common areas
- Ducted outside air to the units
Surface Cleaning: utilize technology and different surface types to keep environments clean.
Clean surfaces are a critical part of Delta’s multi-layered approach to cleanliness across the customer travel journey. Delta regularly cleans aircraft interiors, ticket counters, gates, Delta Sky Clubs and baggage claim areas with high-grade disinfectant that ensures no surface goes unnoticed. The airline has also explored various UV and antimicrobial lighting to clean surfaces in cockpits and lavatories.
Ryan has explored UV lighting and a variety of antimicrobial surfaces for use in common areas. The Ryan team has also found that using naturally resistant materials like solid surface counters and one-piece showers is another way to reduce transmission on surfaces.
Food Service: shift to a more efficient method that helps mitigate risk.
Another major area of focus for both industries is how food can be more safely and efficiently served, now and in the future. Creating a staggered service approach, reducing touch points, speeding up food service time and disinfecting surfaces are all approaches both Delta and Ryan have incorporated to mitigate virus spread.
General Efforts: elevate standards and communicate those new protocols.
As Medeiros stated in the webinar, there is no silver bullet to overcoming COVID-19 challenges; however, airline and senior living companies have made great strides in mitigating risk and keeping people protected. It’s imperative to not only invest in addressing health concerns but also to communicate these efforts.
The airline and senior living industries share the goal of keeping customers and employees safe and healthy. As time goes on, processes will evolve but cleanliness standards will not waver.