If you think the fragrance of the blanket handed to you by a flight attendant
comes from laundry detergent, you may be on a wrong scent. A cleaner attending
to blankets and seat covers for Chinese airlines will tell you in private that
the smell is probably left by a previous passenger’s perfume, because the
blanket has not been washed.
Yingtailong Airline Linen Services Co., Ltd based in Beijing claims to offer
professional cleaning and disinfection for China Southern
Airlines, the country’s biggest airline in terms of passengers carried.
However, investigation done by reporters has found
Yingtailong has been goldbricking. Among thousands of blankets, seat covers and
handkerchiefs delivered to the company, about 80 percent skip all processes and
are sent back after being examined by employees with the naked eye for making
sure there is no visible stain.
“Different items have different methods of cleaning. Some have to be cleaned.
Others can be put aside.” Workers are not required to wear masks or gloves.
Among a dozen workers on site, only one female was wearing her own gloves, “The
company did not give us any. I prepared these myself.”
“The job is very simple: pick out those unsanitary blankets and throw it into
the designated area on the ground.” “How can I tell if it is sanitary?” The
reporter asked. “Just pick out those with visible stains. There is no machine
(to do it). Gotta depend on your eyes,” a worker said, “Don’t worry, passengers
will never know it.”
“To put it in a simple way, if I say it is dirty, it is dirty; if I say it is
clean, it has to be clean. We have the final say-so,” another worker said.
A blanket is fluffed, scanned, folded and stacked in less than 10 seconds.
Within half an hour, the desktop in the workshop has been taken up by piles of
Workers admitted that if a blanket does not have any spot on its surface, it
will be used and reused by many without being cleaned even once. “You have seen
the cleaning process yourself. Don’t use it next time you fly,” said a
Only 500 out of 2,400 blankets carted into the workshop were washed. “This is
about the normal proportion.” Besides, pillow fillers are never cleaned either.
Workers simply strip off pillowcases for cleaning. However, the detergent they
use contains no disinfectant. Asked if the laundry would be disinfected, a
worker answered, “Washing it would be disinfecting it.”
“I heard airlines would come to carry out spot checks. But I have been
working here for months and never seen it,” an insider said.