As the Covid-19 pandemic continues to knock the stuffing out of demand for air travel, airlines worldwide have adopted a wide range of measures to enhance passenger safety. Airlines all require use of masks, have implemented enhanced cleaning procedures in all phases of air travel, and practice social distancing getting on and off planes. Some airlines are even blocking seats to increase personal space for every passenger.

Now Delta Air Lines has adopted an idea I gave them years ago in a comment on its website. Delta is the first U.S. airline to begin installing onboard hand sanitizer stations. Depending on the size of the aircraft, each plane will have up to five hand sanitizer stations. Installations began on Aug. 28 with the Boeing 757-200 fleet.

Hand sanitizer on board
Delta Air Lines photo

Hand sanitizer stations are being placed near the boarding door and bathrooms on every Delta aircraft. The new station installations are in addition to sanitizing wipes flight attendants hand out at boarding and the ones included in complimentary care kits and within pre-packaged snack bags.

On my last flight before travel halted in March, antiseptic towelettes were my most cherished possession flying Cathay Pacific premium economy from Los Angeles to Hong Kong. They provided some peace of mind about the cleanliness of my person and the space around me. I think having access to hand sanitizer stations outside of a bathroom would do the same.


My suggestion to add hand sanitizer stations outside lavatories was intended primarily as a money-saving measure but also one that would potentially decrease the spread of germs. Hand sanitizers outside lavs would save money by reducing the amount of water planes carried for washing hands,t would make adding hand sanitizer to amenity kits unnecessary, and might increase the likelihood that passengers will have clean hands

Boggi hand sanitizer from an AeroMexico business class amenity kit.

Fuel is on of the largest expenses for airlines. Anything that reduces aircraft weight, saves fuel and saves money. According to one report, a 777 carries about 300 gallons of water and a 747 carries 330 gallons for use in bathrooms. Each gallon weighs 8.3 pounds. That’s more than a ton of water. Most of the water is used for flushing toilets, but I would assume airlines would be happy to eliminate 500 lbs of weight from every plane in the fleet.

My suggestion also had a health benefit assuming that passengers would be more likely to use a touch less sanitizer dispenser compared to a sink with faucets. I know I like to touch as few things as possible in any public bathroom. I almost always wash hands after entering a lav, but I don’t like touching the faucets or dry skin from washing with water. I bet people would be more likely to use hand sanitizers than to wash hands with soap and water. It would be best to use automatic dispensers rather than ones that are hand pumped.

Using Purell on board
Delta photo

A recent study from South Korea finds that bathrooms are the highest risk places for contracting SARS-CoV-2 on a plane. Putting hand sanitizer stations outside lavs means people aren’t exposed to the conditions inside the lav. The less time in the bathroom the better from the standpoint of germ transmission.

Final Thoughts

There appear to being financial and heath reason supporting adding hand sanitizer stations on commercial aircraft. Too bad it took a pandemic for my idea to catch on at one airline. The idea should be used more widely and continued after the pandemic ends.

What do you think? Is it likely that adding hand sanitizer stations outside lavatories on airplanes will make the onboard environment healthier?