United taps Cleveland Clinic to advise travel protocols after physician's photo of packed plane

United Airlines has tapped Cleveland Clinic and Clorox to inform its new protocols for customer safety and social distancing. News of the partnerships coincides with Scott Kirby’s first day in the CEO role for the airline and follows a cardiologist's viral tweets reporting "every seat full on this 737."

Under the new partnership, titled "United CleanPlus," medical experts from the Cleveland Clinic will advise on new technologies, training development and quality assurance programming. Clorox products will be used at United's hub airports, starting with Chicago and Denver. 

United has unveiled touchless kiosks in select locations for baggage check-in, sneeze guards, mandatory face coverings for crew and customers, and extending options to travelers when flights are expected to exceed 70 percent capacity.

United's affiliation with disinfection and medical expertise follows the May 9 tweets of Ethan Weiss, MD, who flew United when returning home to San Francisco after several weeks in New York to treat coronavirus patients. On May 11, Dr. Weiss said the airline contacted him and laid out its policy changes. 

The news also emerges as Mr. Kirby takes the reins. He has been president of Chicago-based United since 2016 and adds CEO to his title, effective May 20. He succeeds Oscar Munoz. The airline lost $1.7 billion in the first three months of 2020, according to CNBC.

"We are going through hell right now, but we know this virus will ultimately be defeated, and we will get to the other side," Mr. Kirby said during a May 1 earnings call reported by CNBC. "We can't control or know when or how fast that may happen, but the people of United are doing everything within their power to control what we can, to take care of each other and our customers and to get through hell as quickly as possible."

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