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Infection risk in aircraft very low according to research

Johanna Koyser
14.10.2020
2 minutes

Travel restrictions. This word was probably used more often this year than in the entire history of aviation. Borders were closed, tourism came to an almost complete standstill, but a few flights kept going. After all, many business travellers were and still are dependent on air travel. But were these severe restrictions in aviation necessary at all? An IATA study has now looked at the infection risk in aircraft.

Since the beginning of the year, IATA has registered 1.2 billion air travellers. However, in the same period there have only been 44 cases of Covid-19 infection linked to flights. These figures indicate a fairly low infection risk in aircraft, as confirmed by Dr David Powell, IATA medical advisor.

The risk of a passenger contracting COVID-19 while onboard appears very low. With only 44 identified potential cases of flight-related transmission among 1.2 billion travelers, that’s one case for every 27 million travelers. We recognize that this may be an underestimate but even if 90% of the cases were un-reported, it would be one case for every 2.7 million travelers. We think these figures are extremely reassuring.  Furthermore, the vast majority of published cases occurred before the wearing of face coverings inflight became widespread.

Dr. David Powell

What does the low infection risk imply?

However, this statement should not be taken as a signal at this stage that the pandemic does not play a role in aviation. After all, as Powell says, most of the 44 cases occurred before certain security measures were introduced. So it seems that precisely these measures have led to a low infection risk. In addition, most aircraft are equipped with high-quality air filtration systems that ensure high air quality.

In summary, the low risk of infection in aircraft is reassuring for all those who depend on air transport. At the same time, protective measures at airports and in aircraft should be taken seriously, as they are an important factor in the low risk of infection.

Picture © Ahmed Syed

by Johanna Koyser

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