COVID-19 transmission risks lower in flights: IATA

By Rahul Vaimal, Associate Editor
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The International Air Transport Association (IATA) published an updated tally which shows that since 2020 beginning only 44 COVID-19 cases have been reported in which transmission occurred during a flight journey whereas about 1.2 billion people traveled over this period.

Mr. David Powell, IATA’s Medical Advisor says that the chances of a traveler getting infected while onboard appears to be very low. He pointed out that the majority of cases happened before enforcing strict guidelines to wear face masks inflight.

The new data which throws light onto why the number of cases is low come from a joint publication by Airbus, the European aircraft manufacturer, the US-based aircraft developer Boeing and Embraer, which is a Brazilian aerospace conglomerate.

Effective measures

The data says that flights’ airflow systems, High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters, the natural barrier of the seatback, the downward flow of air and high rates of air exchange effectively decreased the chances of virus spread onboard in normal times.

Wearing a mask adds a further and significant additional layer of protection, which in turn makes it safer even being seated in the closed space of an aircraft cabin than any other indoor environment.

IATA began to recommend passengers to wear masks onboard from June 2020 and since the implementation of the Takeoff Guidance by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) it is a common requirement on most airlines.

Other measures taken by ICAO to ensure a safe flight include proper management of queuing, contactless processing, reduced movement in the cabin and simplified onboard services. On top of this, the airflow systems are designed to reduce the transmission of disease with high airflow rates and air exchange rates of 20-30 times per hour and highly effective filtration of recycled air.

Alexandre de Juniac
Alexandre de Juniac

“There is no single silver-bullet measure that will enable us to live and travel safely in the age of COVID-19. But the combination of measures that are being put in place is reassuring travelers the world over that COVID-19 has not defeated their freedom to fly.”

Mr. Juniac further adds that the current design features of the aircraft along with wearing a mask reduced the risk of getting caught by the virus. The aviation sector and airline manufacturers always incorporate science and global best practices to ensure the safety of its crew and passengers, he said.