Airlines and suppliers worldwide are adapting their onboard thinking to help rebuild traveller confidence. Jo Austin explores how textile technology is supporting inflight hygiene
Our industry is a resilient one and when times are tough, our real mettle shines through. Airlines and airports have responded fast to COVID-19 with a raft of initiatives designed to rebuild passenger confidence.
Suppliers rapidly adapted to meet new demands. Amenity suppliers embracing the provision of PPE, and textile specialists focusing on new antimicrobial fabrics.
Orvec International, specialist in woven and non-woven products, now has PPE manufacturing as a mainstay. Will Meddings, commercial director, says: “We invested in a face mask production line to produce certified Type IIR face masks – medical grade – to offer a high level of protection. Our head rest covers, pillows and pillow covers are now also made using antimicrobial fabrics resistant to germs. For inflight catering we are in partnership with The Concept (a UAE based start-up) to bring a range of anti-microbial infused meal trays to market.”
This NEOS Fly range claims to promote hygiene in the cabin and help to reduce touch-point issues. The anti-microbial additive is FDA approved and is 99.9% effective against microbes. Anti-microbial products can also be customised and made out of the food safe anti-microbial materials.
At inflight textile specialist John Horsfall, Ellie Parkes, identifies the challenge of combining new hygiene demands with the tradition of luxury products. She says: “Our team has been looking at the array of anti-bacterial and anti-viral fabric treatments on the market. There’s no doubt they offer reassurance but, as with all our product development, we have to consider their longevity and resistance to airline laundry. Our rotable products have always been designed to be safe and hygienic and can be washed at temperatures that destroy bacteria and viruses.”
The company’s design manager, Alexandra Allen, adds: “Of course safety is paramount, but we need to get back to delighting passengers and creating a joyful, comfortable, reassuring travel experience.”
She anticipates the pandemic having some influence on design trends and adds: “The design aesthetic is going to look more towards hopeful and calming colours and styles – to ease the minds of a worried passenger. This will most likely be seen across design from clothing, to packaging, to interiors, and probably our future cabins.”
PPE elements have become key to amenity kits but the focus is on retaining a sense of luxury within the hygiene offer now, says Roland Grohmann, FORMIA ceo. He says: “Our aim is to support our airline clients in restoring confidence in air travel. There has been a seismic shift. Where airline focus used to be on luxury, comfort and pampering as the way to wow passengers and build loyalty, today it is all about safety as a way to build confidence and trust.”
FORMIA’s enhanced Clean Kit range offers airline customers a choice in products and concepts whilst bringing new brand partners onboard including sanitising experts Raze; iconic lifestyle brand Smiley; Norwegian specialists Sprekenhus and affordable luxury luggage designer, iFLY.
Qatar Airways has customised this offer to create its ‘Travel with Confidence’ protective kit, whilst Eva Air opted to collaborate with French skincare specialist PAYOT for its bespoke offering.
Adds Grohmann: “Beyond COVID-19, climate change and ecological issues loom large for the airline industry and we recognise that single use items and plastics go against the sustainability mission. With this in mind we have developed a sustainability initiative that will begin with a transition from polyester eye masks and socks to 100% recycled PET in the coming months.”
This will include sustainable packaging and material solutions such as washable kraft paper and recycled PET.
Ian Linaker, at Galileo Watermark, agrees the focus is on confidence building. He says: “We are working closely with our partners to navigate these new times and one of the most immediate requests has been to rework some existing kits to add hygiene elements such as antibacterial wipes. Airlines are willing to invest in this to give customers the confidence to fly again. There is a reluctance to replace all the luxury wow factors with just clinical, practical products so we are working with our customers to meet the new needs without negatively impacting the passenger’s perception of the luxury onboard experience.
“We have developed WHO-approved hand sanitiser formulations and are able to provide these in various formats in own brand or our in house hygiene brand, In S+FE Hands.
The company is also supplying both disposable and reusable masks. Reusables are seen as more sustainable and use a new material technology that can kill viruses and bacteria, making it safer for use over extended periods. Linaker adds: “Our customers expect passengers will provide their own masks but we certainly see a demand for some masks onboard to cater for unexpected eventualities and for crew.”
Bayart Innovation has added hygiene kits with alcohol wipes and face masks using nano technologic yarn – structured and ionised to be reusable; and Global-C has is offering a range of antibacterial hygiene-support products; and WESSCO has developed a TravelShield range of amenities.
According to private jet charter company, GlobeAir, there are around 700 touchpoints with potential risk of contagion on a single commercial flight, plus those at airports.
Plane Talking Products, in the UK, is focused on addressing this through the benefits of anti-microbials which can protect the touchpoints. It has a worldwide exclusive deal with Swiss-based HeiQ whose Viroblock product is a protective, invisible anti-microbial layer that provides a continuous, long-lasting self-sanitising effect to any surface.
Alison Wells, co-founder and director of Plane Talking Products, says: “We are delighted to offer HeiQ Viroblock at a time when an IATA passenger survey reports that over 50% of people surveyed are avoiding air travel due to concerns around catching COVID-19 and other viruses inflight. This is not a traditional ‘cleaning’ issue anymore, it’s about reassuring your passengers about the incredible steps you are taking to protect them, and being able to follow through on your commitment with leading-edge viroblocking technology.”
Common cabin items like blankets, pillows and headrest covers can all be infused with HeiQ Viroblock active protection, as well as surfaces, to remove 99.9% of infectious diseases. The innovation extends a special combination of advanced silver and cosmetic vesicle technology which can be used for airline sanitisation using sprays, fogging solutions, fully impregnated textiles, PPE, hard surface coatings and disposables.
Distributed by Protective Film Solutions, SafeTouch film is made from over 60% anti-microbial copper, and is said to be the only touch surface material registered with the US Environmental Protection Agency. The clear film is non-toxic, widely recyclable, and can be used on almost any surface. It is effective for two years.
Chris Gould, commercial director at Protective Film Solutions, says: “SafeTouch is a game-changing solution for airports and airlines, and indeed almost any industry looking to reduce transmission of respiratory viruses.”
Kaelis has partnered with COPPTECH to create onboard products with an anti-microbial protection said to not only eliminate SARS-COV-2 but also protect from other infectious diseases, pathogenic microbes, bacteria, virus and fungi. It has been extensively tested and certified to eliminate COVID-19. It can be used as a shield against pathogenic microorganisms, rupturing their membrane, affecting their internal processes and eliminating through the biocidal properties of copper and zinc.
Kaelis will use it to create non-toxic, eco-friendly and safe pyjamas, blankets, pillows, socks, pouches, trays, jugs, ice buckets, masks for the crew, galley equipment and more. LATAM is already using blankets that have COPPTECH’s technology incorporated.
Kaelis ceo, Federico Heitz, says: “The most important thing now is to convince passengers that travelling is safe. Only by taking the necessary action to do this, will we be able to make this industry thrive again.”
For masks, Sonovia has recently launched zinc-infused products in the UK said to be over 90% effective against COVID-19. EU-certified labs have found that it kills over 99% of viruses. This patented technology uses zinc oxide nanoparticles infused into the fabric.
Melbourne-based Buzz has created a new protective snood-style face mask for the Etihad Wellness programme. Made out of lightweight, breathable and stretchy jersey fabric. The soft reusable snood has been treated with MicrobeBARRIER™ fabric treatment, a broad spectrum antimicrobial treatment, laboratory tested and proven to reduce the presence of germs in fabrics. With this long-lasting protective layer, the snoods are washable and reusable, adding to their environmental credentials.