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United Airlines: Dept. of Defense study says COVID risk on planes is 'virtually non-existent'

Oct. 15, 2020
2 min read
United Airlines Boeing 787-10
United Airlines: Dept. of Defense study says COVID risk on planes is 'virtually non-existent'
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United Airlines is promoting a new study that finds a minimal risk from the coronavirus onboard an airplane, an effort that comes as United works to boost confidence in travel after a more than $1 billion loss in the third quarter.

The study conducted by the Department of Defense on United aircraft finds that the risk of breathing in a COVID-19 particle on a flight is just 0.003%, United said Thursday. The findings are based on every flyer wearing a mask and looked at the risks onboard a fully loaded flight.

Trade group the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and Delta Air Lines have also touted a minimal risk of coronavirus infection on airplanes in the past week.

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United's publication of the findings comes as it reports a $1.4 billion net loss during the quarter ending in September. While far less than Delta's $5.4 billion loss over the same period, the Chicago-based carrier did not have the billions-of-dollars in one-time COVID-related expenses that Delta recorded during the period.

Importantly, United reduced its daily loss to an average of $21 million a day — or $25 million a day including debt payments — in the third quarter. Every U.S. carrier is focused on cutting losses, or cash burn, to zero as quickly as they can.

United executives will discuss the results for the July-to-September period on Thursday.

Related: Risk of coronavirus on planes less than getting struck by lightning

This story will be updated with more details on United's results later on Thursday.

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