Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport adds UV light to kill coronavirus

Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport adds UV light to kill coronavirus

Katelyn Keenehan, Arizona Republic
Published 12:00 p.m. ET Sept. 6, 2020


Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport has installed UV-C light technology to sterilize handrails on seven of their busiest escalators.

Arizona Republic

Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport added seven UV-C light sterilizers to some pre-security escalators to maximize the safety of travelers amid the coronavirus pandemic.

UV-C, or ultraviolet light, is known to kill up to 99.9% of bacteria and viruses and many other microorganisms, according to Sky Harbor officials.

The light was installed underneath the escalator handrail and is not visible to travelers, according to Gabriel Nevarez, deputy aviation director for Facilities and Services.

“They shine the UV light directly on the handrail as it passes through,” Nevarez said, “As the handrail is moving, it’s a continuous sanitation of the handrail.”

The new UV-C system was installed in two escalators in Terminal 3 and three in Terminal 4.

The airport chose these terminals due to their high levels of foot traffic, according to Phoenix Sky Harbor spokeswoman Krishna Patel.

“Terminal 4 is the busiest. It has our two main airlines, Southwest and American, as well as our international flights which have been on hold since the beginning of COVID. Terminal 3 is also busy and is going to get busier than it was earlier this year as people start to travel again,” Patel said.

The new installation is part of a pilot program, and if it is successful, the airport plans to expand the UV-C light to other areas of the facility.

“The goal is to expand into the rest of our escalators and moving walkways,” Nevarez said.

Brittney Evans of Goshen, Ind., carries her daughter, Mary Evans and holds hands with her nephew, Ayden Hussey, as they travel down an escalator with UV-C light technology to sterilize handrails, at Terminal 3 of Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport on Sept. 3, 2020. (Photo: David Wallace/The Republic)

Brittney Evans, who traveled to Phoenix from Goshen, Indiana, with her 9-month-old daughter, Mary Evans, and nephew, Ayden Hussey, said she feels good about the new precautionary measure for the handrails.

“Yeah, it makes us feel safer. That way he (her nephew) can touch them,” Evans said.

The airport has taken a number of precautions to instill confidence in people who want to fly again.

It implemented mask-wearing and social distancing on the airport premises, and some airlines are even leaving middle seats open to accommodate travelers.

Terry Nelson, traveling from Salt Lake City with her family, said they saw the airport’s effort to keep the environment safe.

“My son fell asleep and his mask came off. The flight attendant, right away, told him to get that back on,” Nelson said.

Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport has staff designated to cleaning various units throughout the day.

“Disinfecting and sanitizing an airport takes a lot. Our custodial vendor has staff throughout the terminals doing the daily cleaning and disinfecting,” Nevarez said, “By increasing our sanitizing efforts, it increases the safety of our passengers.”


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