50% higher risk of COVID-19 infection when passengers are boarded back-to-front in flights: Study

By Sayujya S, Desk Reporter
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According to a new scientific study, boarding passengers seated at the back of the aircraft first actually increases the chance of catching the virus by 50 percent.

Boarding passengers at the back first followed by those in the front has been a COVID-19 driven change implemented by major airlines like the US-based Delta Air Lines and others to cut the risk of infection.

Greater risk

But the recent study, which was published Royal Society Open Science journal, said that the so-called back-to-front boarding is also twice as risky as letting passengers on at random, even though it does reduce exposure between seated passengers and those walking down the plane.

The higher risk comes from closer contact between passengers in the same rows clustering in the aisle as they stow their luggage.

Delta Air lines adopted back-to-front boarding to “minimize contact with other customers,” according to its website, though the US airline only boards 10 passengers at a time. The change was among several across the industry, including blocking out middle seats, to persuade passengers it is safe to get back on a plane.

Scientists from American institutions including the University of West Florida and Florida State University simulated 16,000 possible passenger movements for the study. “The new policies do not improve on the old ones in any situation,” they said.

Reducing the risk of spread

The risk of virus exposure could be reduced by stopping people using overhead storage bins, and by boarding passengers in window seats before those in aisle seats, recommended the study.

An earlier study found that leaving middle seats empty could give airline passengers more protection from the virus that causes COVID-19. Researchers said the risk of passengers being exposed to the virus from an infected person on the plane could be reduced by 23 percent to 57 percent if middle seats are empty, compared to a full flight. However, a majority of the airlines across the globe have stopped blocking the middle seat and are selling all tickets now.

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