United Airlines Adds Steps to Purify Air, Combat Coronavirus

United Airlines is adding to its effort to combat the virus, maximizing air flow through filtration systems during boarding and deplaning.
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United Airlines  (UAL) - Get Report said it’s taking additional steps to purify the air on its planes to protect passengers from covid-19.

United “will now maximize air flow volume for all mainline aircraft high-efficiency particulate air filtration systems during the entire boarding and deplaning process,” the Chicago carrier said in a statement.

“In combination with the HEPA filters, the air conditioning and pressurization system onboard United's mainline aircraft recirculates the air every two to three minutes and removes 99.97% of particles, including viruses and bacteria during both ground and air operations.”

United said that makes the air on its planes “significantly” cleaner than is typical in restaurants, grocery stores, schools or “even some hospitals.”

The system is due to start operating July 27.

"The quality of the air, ... a strict mask policy and regularly disinfected [surfaces] are the building blocks towards preventing the spread of covid-19 on an airplane,” said United Chief Executive Scott Kirby.

“We expect that air travel is not likely to get back to normal until we're closer to a widely administered vaccine, so we're in this for the long haul.”

Last week United reached an agreement with its pilots' union offering pilots “a variety of voluntary separation and reduced staffing options to consider as we continue to manage the unprecedented impact the pandemic is having on the airline industry."

That came just a week after United warned that it may have to cut 45% of its workforce, or 36,000 employees, as a result of the pandemic.

United Airlines shares at last check traded at $32.21, down 5%. They have dropped 63% year to date. The entire travel industry has been decimated by the pandemic as travelers stayed home.