JFK Airport’s Most Touched Spots Are Not Being Cleaned Thoroughly, Investigation Claims

“Considering what we found, if you’re traveling any time soon, you might want to bring your own wipes.”

While enhanced protocols have been put into place to ensure travelers’ safety from the spread of COVID-19 at New York City's John F. Kennedy International Airport, an Inside Edition investigation revealed that high-touch points may not be cleaned thoroughly.

Passengers waiting in security lines at JFK Airport Terminal 1.
Passengers, some wearing masks and protective gear, queue for their flight at Terminal 1 of John F. Kennedy Airport (JFK) amid the novel coronavirus pandemic on May 13, 2020 in Queens, New York. JOHANNES EISELE/AFP via Getty Images

In the report that aired Monday, Sept. 14, Inside Edition’s senior correspondent, Les Trent, performed an experiment that revealed bathroom stall doors, elevator buttons, gate seating, and check-in counters still had residue left there three days prior.

Upon the team’s return, they said “the handles of all five bathroom stalls were still covered in invisible ink” in the men’s restroom and that a Terminal 4 elevator’s buttons “still had not been wiped clean.”

They also sprayed the show’s logo on 13 seat backs in the waiting area of Gate B29 and three spots on a check-in counter in front of a Delta sign. All of the logos were still visible during the return visit. The 32 armrests they painted, which they called “obvious high-touch surfaces,” also still had ink on them.

To show how the ink worked, they took a wipe and demonstrated how it quickly disappeared. “The ink is gone — it’s as easy as that,” Trent said.

The investigation did note that they saw cleaning crews mopping floors and taking out the trash, and also pointed out the presence of a cleaning cart in the restroom, but still Trent concluded, “Considering what we found, if you’re traveling any time soon, you might want to bring your own wipes.”

On the site of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates JFK airport, they state that as part of their “enhanced cleaning” measures, “We have increased the frequency of cleaning, sanitizing and disinfecting in all areas of the terminal including touch points such as escalator rails, elevator buttons, seating, iPads, and payment systems.”

In response to the Inside Edition investigation, the company that operates JFK’s Terminal 4 said in a statement, “fluorescent marker program systems are not always consistent indicators of whether or not a disinfecting cleaning process actually took place on certain surfaces,” but added it will do a “cleaning audit program” to “ensure the safety” of travelers.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey also said it “insist on the highest safety standard of its airport terminals” and will “undertake a thorough review with the terminal operator [including] cleaning and disinfecting protocols to ensure that their processes comply with these high standards.”

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