Risk of coronavirus on planes less than getting struck by lightning, airline group says
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.
Travelers concerned about contracting the coronavirus on a flight can breath at least a small sigh of relief following new evidence that there is a very low risk of catching COVID-19 onboard an airplane.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has found only 44 confirmed cases of COVID-19 caught on a flight from among the 1.2 billion people that flew between January and July this year, in a study released Thursday. That translates to one case for every 27.3 million flyers.
In other words, you have a better chance of getting struck by lightning than catching COVID on an airplane, the study found.
IATA, as well as experts from Airbus, Boeing and Embraer, all agreed that the combination of wearing a mask and the constant airflow through high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters keep cabins safe.
Brazilian planemaker Embraer found that masks alone reduced a flyer’s risk of inhaling COVID particles by six times. This is greater than the benefit of, for example, blocking a middle seat for the appearance of social distancing on a plane.
“The social distance onboard an aircraft are ensured by the airflow,” IATA medical advisor Dr. David Powell said during a briefing Thursday. “That’s the best protection onboard an aircraft.”
IATA’s study backs up assertions by American Airlines, United Airlines and others that blocking seats does not provide safety from the virus. Instead, those sides say that masks, air filtration and enhanced cleaning measures are the best defense against transmission on a plane.
Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian has said that his carrier’s decision to block seats into next year is more a matter of building traveler confidence than anything else. In addition, the carrier has been able to command slightly higher fares than its competitors throughout the crisis possibly mitigating the impact of blocked seats.
Alaska Airlines, JetBlue Airways and Southwest Airlines also either block seats or cap the number of flyers on their flights.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), when asked about inflight transmission in August, told TPG that the data was inconclusive.
Despite the new data showing a low risk of COVID-19 transmission on an aircraft, IATA and the planemakers agreed that risks remain elsewhere in the travel process. For example, in the airport terminal or on the way to the airport.
And the trade group is not bullish on a general recovery in air travel. IATA does not expect a full return to 2019 levels of flying until at least 2024, with domestic markets returning before international ones.
“If you want to travel and minimize the risks of COVID-19, put on a mask and get on an airplane,” Luis Carlos Alfonso, vice president of engineering, technology and strategy at Embraer, said during the briefing.
Featured image Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images.
Welcome to The Points Guy!
Earn 90,000 bonus miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new card in the first three months of card membership. Offer ends 11/10/2021.
With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.
- Limited Time Offer: Earn 90,000 Bonus Miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer expires 11/10/2021.
- Earn up to 20,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) with Status Boost® per year. After you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, you can earn 10,000 MQMs two times per year, getting you closer to Medallion® Status. MQMs are used to determine Medallion® Status and are different than miles you earn toward flights.
- Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
- Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery and at U.S. supermarkets.
- Earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.
- Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. *Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $75 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
- Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
- Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®.
- Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
- No Foreign Transaction Fees.
- $250 Annual Fee.
- Terms Apply.
- See Rates & Fees