The coronavirus has severely impacted air travel and might cripple the industry irreparably. Air traffic is down 95%, according to statistics, and at least half the planes in the world are grounded.
However, experts note the risk of infection on board an aircraft is actually lower than in an office or shopping mall. While social distancing at the airport or on a flight admittedly presents a challenge, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) said air quality on an aircraft is superior to most public places.
"Compared with these locations, a modern aircraft has its cabin air changed many times more frequently than offices or shops," IATA said. "The air supplied to the passenger cabin is 100% fresh air, or is a mixture of fresh and re-circulated air that is filtered through HEPA filters of the same efficacy in removing viruses as those used in surgical operating rooms."
According to Newsweek, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) acknowledged traveling increases your chances of getting and spreading the coronavirus, but questions which mode of travel is safest.
"We don't know if one type of traveling is safer than others; however airports, bus stations, and rest stops are all places where travelers can be exposed to the virus in the air and on surfaces," the agency said, adding, "most viruses and other germs do not spread easily on flights because of how the air is circulated."
Newsweek reported, earlier this month, Peter DeFazio, the chairman of the House Committee on Transportation, recommended all airlines keep the middle seats open on flights. Some carriers have already implemented these measures, while others, like Frontier Airlines, have a plan that allows passengers to pay $39 to reserve an empty seat next to them.
Many airlines have drastically reduced or stopped in flight service, opting for bottled water and other safer beverages.
FCM Travel Solutions has compiled a COVID-19 safety checklist for air travelers:
- Practice good hygiene. Washing your hands with soap and water or using a hand sanitizer frequently makes good sense anytime, but especially when traveling.
- Use a face mask to protect yourself and fellow travelers.
- Do not travel if you have any signs of illness. An increasing number of international airports are conducting temperature checks for arriving, departing and transit passengers.
- Clean up. While airlines have announced extra plane cleaning, there is no guarantee every surface will get the full treatment. Carry antibacterial wipes with you to clean your seat, arm rest, tray table, seat-back pocket, touch screen, headrest, and window blind.
- Try to get a window seat away from passenger foot traffic for more protection.
- Upgrade to business or first class that will increase your buffer of space and may provide less contact with other passengers.
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