By Kevin Tibbles, NBC News correspondent
OK…So I fly a lot. That doesn't make me much different than a lot of folks these days.
And, when I say there are times I feel more like a domestic animal being herded towards an untimely fate, I am sure many of you will understand. Once you manage to squeeze your way down the aisle and into that middle seat (purchased at the last minute for top dollar of course), the ultimate indignity often awaits. The nasty half-sandwich, or McNugget (is that honey mustard or barbecue sauce oozing?) or chewed gum…rammed down the back of the seat in front of me; and missed in the hasty cleanup that was performed during the 2 and a half minutes the plane has been at the gate. Yuck.
Well, in tough economic times, the airlines are finding happy passengers can indeed become…return passengers. And, when ticket prices are relatively even across the board, a cold-half-consumed Starbucks in the seatback could be enough to make customers go elsewhere.
Enter…the man United Airlines calls 'Mr.. Clean'.
Paul Sanders is an air force vet..and an admitted 'clean freak'; who's job is to make sure ALL of United's fleet is spic and span by the time YOU reach YOUR seat. How does he do it? Well, aside from patrolling the aisles and poking around in the overhead compartments; Sanders has stepped up the number of times each jet is steam cleaned each month. His staff is now armed with hand-held computer devices….reporting all transgressions of tidiness to a central office. Those problems are then quickly dealt with.
Does Mr. Clean think those passengers who leave behind their apple cores and banana peels are slobs?
Nope. "They are not slovenly", he says. "They are just living for a few hours on an airplane.