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Life at SATS: How in-cabin cleanliness is accomplished in 20 minutes

Life at SATS: How in-cabin cleanliness is accomplished in 20 minutes

Travel is about the journey as much as it is about the destination. Every passenger deserves a safe trip to take them to their destination.

The Aircraft Interior Cleaning (AIC) Team at SATS works towards this same goal, knowing that a clean plane is also a safe plane.

Aircraft Cleaner Team - Changi Airport

Nisha Elangovan, AIC Officer managing staff deployment, makes sure cabin attendants and groomers understand the vital role they play in the passenger journey.

Primarily, the AIC Team is assigned to maintain in-cabin cleanliness, but their role goes way beyond that. They make sure your journey is safe and the plane you are travelling in is spotless. Additionally, they play their part in getting your plane to depart on time.

In under 20 minutes, their tasks must be carried out so departing passengers can experience a clean and fresh takeoff for their journey.

Twenty-minute mark

Airline operations follow strict timings. Airport jobs are typically ones that must be performed under time pressure. For aircraft cabin cleaners, the timeline they race against is just 20 minutes, sometimes even less.

You must be thinking this duration is such a tight timeline for interior cleaning. Yes, it, in fact, is. Cleaning a plane used by 100 to 900 passengers is neither an easy nor a quick task. But since turnaround times can be quite fast, 20 minutes is the most ideal. For shorter turnarounds, it can even be reduced to 15 minutes.

Turnaround times are crucial for on-time departures. This is the time from when an aircraft parks at its assigned bay at Changi Airport until its stipulated time of departure. For example, Flight A parks at Bay 1 at 1700H and needs to depart at 1845H. Its turnaround time is 75 minutes. Within this duration, ground operations are carried out.

The plane should be ready for boarding 40 minutes before the scheduled departure time, which also means all cleaning procedures need to be completed in the first 30 minutes from the aircraft’s arrival, minus the 10 minutes designated for passenger and flight crew disembarkation. Hence, the AIC Team only gets a maximum of 20 minutes cleaning time for an aircraft with a 75-minute turnaround time.

It is possible

Cleaning of aircraft cabins

How then does the AIC Team manage to complete the cleaning tasks in such a brief period?

“We can do it because of teamwork,” Nisha affirms. A core value that SATS upholds as an organisation, teamwork is the key to achieving the goal we work towards daily – to ensure seamless airport operations at Changi Airport, thereby, getting passengers to their destinations safely.

For Nisha, a job well done is equivalent to zero flight delays and completed in-cabin cleaning within the scheduled timeline. Her satisfaction comes with knowing that departing passengers will board a plane with thoroughly cleaned seats, windows, and lavatories and freshly placed pillows, headrest covers, and blankets.

Undoubtedly, Nisha is confident of the AIC Team’s capability to get the job done properly and efficiently.

A day at work

Nisha has been an AIC Officer for five years now. Each day, she is tasked with ensuring flights have a team of attendants to do in-cabin cleaning.

If Flight A is set to land at 1700H, Nisha ensures the assigned group stands by at the correct parking bay. Each group typically consists of eight to 14 cleaning personnel, depending on the turnaround time and the aircraft type.

The group has an operations assistant (OA) and cabin assistants (CAs). The OA works as the group’s coordinator, informing the CAs of their schedule and bay locations and conducting a quick briefing on the cleaning duration they should meet. The OA, likewise, handles the quality check while the group does the cleaning. At times, the OA steps in to help to expedite the cleaning process.

Cabin assistants do specific tasks. Some may be assigned to empty all waste baskets and replace them with new waste bags. Some may be assigned to disinfect the seats. Others are tasked to clean the lavatories, while a few can be delegated to replace blankets and pillows.

Nisha is more than proud of her team’s initiative to step in and extend a helping hand to one another, just to make sure they fulfil what they are expected to do. “If a cabin assistant completes her assigned task, she will help others who are not yet done,” she shares proudly.

How the AIC Team successfully cleans the aircraft in just 20 minutes is because of one thing. “It is always a team effort,” Nisha concludes.

What it takes

Aircraft cabin cleaners or cabin assistants typically attend to eight flights each day. They work with a group that Nisha describes as “a bunch of happy folks who love their job at the airport.”

Each cabin attendant is prepared for the role through a two-week training course where they are taught the standard procedures for aircraft cabin cleaning, proper equipment uses, safety practices, and aircraft types.

What they look for, however, is just one thing – that you know how to work with a team. For Nisha, the job is about knowing how to row at the same speed and direction as other members of the group, be it within the same team or among other departments.

With this, the AIC Team is able to prepare a clean cabin for safe flying... in just 20 minutes.

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