Friday, June 3, 2016

Food & Drug Administration letter prompts changes to hand sanitation practices on Horizon Air flights

Kathryn's Report:

SEATAC, Wash. -- A warning from the U.S. Food & Drug Administration is prompting Horizon Airlines to enhance hand sanitation practices on its flights.

None of the airline's 52 Bombardier Q400 planes have hand-washing sinks in their lavatories.

Passenger Calvin Cardinal noticed it.

"I'm kind of a germ freak, so yeah," said Cardinal, who's visiting Seattle for a few days from Alberta, Canada.

Passenger Kristin Ferrell did, too. No sink in the lavatory on one of her frequent flights on Horizon Airlines meant she couldn't wash her hands after using the bathroom.

"It was just one of those things that kinda make you go 'Hmmmmmm,'" Ferrell said. 

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration sent a warning letter to the airline in mid-May after several inspections last winter brought the issue to light.

Without hand washing sinks in the lavatories on the airline's Q400 planes, employees who serve food could potentially increase the spread of communicable disease, stated District Director Miriam Burbach.

"Directing your employees to wash their hands in the airport between flights or to use hand sanitizer does not meet the requirements for suitable lavatory facilities for food-handling employees," Burbach stated. "We recommend that you discontinue the use of ice and serve only food and beverages that are in closed containers."

"They do handle ice. They do handle your cups and things like that," said Ferrell. "It does make you wonder is everything really clean? Is it hygienic? Is it gonna be safe for the passengers?"

Alaska Airlines, which owns and operates Horizon, plans to roll out more robust procedures on all Horizon flights next week, Company Spokeswoman Ann Zaninovich said in a statement to KOMO News.

Flight attendants will be required to use a hospital-grade disinfectant on their hands and put on gloves before pouring beverages, Zaninovich said. They'll sanitize a second time after taking the gloves off, she added. The airline does not serve food in open containers, so snack items will continued to be served.

Cardinal said he wishes every flight would have access to sinks, but he's happy to see the changes.

"Puts me at ease because we're always worried about passing germs on, especially in busy places like this, and the airplane. There's a lot of people that get up and go use those bathrooms," he said.

The FDA gave the airline 15 business days to respond to its letter. If the issue isn't fixed, the agency could pursue further action.

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