Travel Industry News at TravelNewsAsia.com since 1997. Interviews, podcasts, videos, pictures and more
Fri, 9 October 2020

New Research Points to Low Risk of COVID19 Transmission Inflight

IATA has reported that since the start of the year, there have been 44 cases of COVID19 reported in which transmission is thought to have been associated with a flight journey - inclusive of confirmed, probable and potential cases.

Over the same period some 1.2 billion passengers have travelled.

The risk of a passenger contracting COVID19 while onboard appears very low, said Dr. David Powell, IATAs Medical Advisor. With only 44 identified potential cases of flight-related transmission among 1.2 billion travellers, thats one case for every 27 million travellers. 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.

Onboard an Air Italy Boeing 737 MAX 8. Picture by Steven Howard of TravelNewsAsia.com Click to enlarge.

New insight into why the numbers are so low has come from the joint publication by Airbus, Boeing and Embraer of separate computational fluid dynamics (CFD) research conducted by each manufacturer in their aircraft.

While methodologies differed slightly, each detailed simulation confirmed that aircraft airflow systems do control the movement of particles in the cabin, limiting the spread of viruses.

Data from the simulations yielded similar results:

- Aircraft 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 efficiently reduce the risk of disease transmission on board in normal times.

- The addition of mask-wearing amid pandemic concerns adds a further and significant extra layer of protection, which makes being seated in close proximity in an aircraft cabin safer than most other indoor environments.

IATAs data collection, and the results of the separate simulations, align with the low numbers reported in a recently published peer-reviewed study by Freedman and Wilder-Smith in the Journal of Travel Medicine. Although there is no way to establish an exact tally of possible flight-associated cases, IATAs outreach to airlines and public health authorities combined with a thorough review of available literature has not yielded any indication that onboard transmission is in any way common or widespread. Further, the Freedman/Wilder-Smith study points to the efficacy of mask-wearing in further reducing risk.

IATA recommended mask-wearing on board earlier this year and it is now a common requirement on most airlines, some even require a mask and a shield to be worn during the flight.

ICAOs comprehensive guidance for safe air travel amid the COVID19 crisis relies on multiple layers of protection, which involve the airports as well as the aircraft. Mask-wearing is one of the most visible. But managed queuing, contactless processing, reduced movement in the cabin, and simplified onboard services are among the multiple measures the aviation industry is taking to keep flying safe. And this is on top of the fact that airflow systems are designed to avoid the spread of disease with high air flow rates and air exchange rates, and highly effective filtration of any recycled air, said Powell.

Aircraft design characteristics add a further layer of protection contributing to the low incidence of inflight transmission. These include:

- Limited face-to-face interactions as passengers face forward and move about very little;

- The effect of the seat-back acting as a physical barrier to air movement from one row to another;

- The minimization of forward-aft flow of air, with a segmented flow design which is directed generally downward from ceiling to floor;

- The high rate of fresh air coming into the cabin. Air is exchanged 20-30 times per hour on board most aircraft, which compares very favorably with the average office space (average 2-3 times per hour) or schools (average 10-15 times per hour); and

- The use of HEPA filters which have more than 99.9% bacteria/virus removal efficiency rate ensuring that the air supply entering the cabin is not a pathway for introducing microbes.

TThe interaction of those design factors in creating a uniquely low-risk environment had been intuitively understood but not previously modelled prior to the CFD simulations by the three major manufacturers in each of their aircraft cabins. The following are highlights from the manufacturers research:

Airbus

Airbus used CFD to create a highly accurate simulation of the air in an A320 cabin, to see how droplets resulting from a cough move within the cabin airflow. The simulation calculated parameters such as air speed, direction and temperature at 50 million points in the cabin, up to 1,000 times per second.

Airbus then used the same tools to model a non-aircraft environment, with several individuals keeping six feet (1.8 meters) distance between them. The result was that potential exposure was lower when seated side by side on a plane than when staying six feet apart in an environment such as an office, classroom or grocery store./p>

After multiple, highly-detailed simulations using the most accurate scientific methods available, we have concrete data which reveals the aircraft cabin offers a much safer environment than indoor public spaces, said Bruno Fargeon, Airbus Engineering and the leader of the Airbus Keep Trust in Air Travel Initiative. The way that air circulates, is filtered and replaced on airplanes creates an absolutely unique environment in which you have just as much protection being seated side-by-side as you would standing six feet apart on the ground.

Boeing

Using CFD, Boeing researchers tracked how particles from coughing and breathing move around the airplane cabin. Various scenarios were studied including the coughing passenger with and without a mask, the coughing passenger located in various seats including the middle seat, and different variations of passengers individual overhead air vents (known as gaspers) on and off.

This modeling determined the number of cough particles that entered the breathing space of the other passengers, said Dan Freeman, the chief engineer for Boeings Confident Travel Initiative. We then compared a similar scenario in other environments, such as an office conference room. Based on the airborne particle count, passengers sitting next to one another on an airplane is the same as standing more than seven feet (or two meters) apart in a typical building environment.

Embraer

Using CFD, cabin air flow and droplet dispersion models validated in full-scale cabin environment testing, Embraer analyzed the cabin environment considering a coughing passenger in several different seats and air flow conditions in our different aircraft to measure these variables and their effect. The research Embraer completed shows that risk of onboard transmission is extremely low, and the actual data on in-flight transmissions that may have occurred, supports these findings.

Luis Carlos Affonso, Senior Vice-President of Engineering, Technology and Strategy, Embraer, said, "The human need to travel, to connect, and to see our loved ones has not disappeared. In fact, at times like this, we need our families and friends even more. Our message today is that because of the technology and procedures in place, you can fly safely all the research demonstrates this. In fact, the cabin of a commercial aircraft is one of the safer spaces available anywhere during this pandemic."

Safety Always the Top Priority

Aviation earns its reputation on safety with each and every flight. A recent IATA study found that 86% of recent travelers felt that the industrys COVID19 measures were keeping them safe and were well-implemented.

There is no single silver-bullet measure that will enable us to live and travel safely in the age of COVID19. But the combination of measures that are being put in place is reassuring travelers the world over that COVID19 has not defeated their freedom to fly. Nothing is completely risk-free. But with just 44 published cases of potential inflight COVID19 transmission among 1.2 billion travelers, the risk of contracting the virus on board appears to be in the same category as being struck by lightning, said Alexandre de Juniac, IATAs Director General and CEO. The detailed computational fluid dynamics research of the aircraft manufacturers demonstrates that combining the aircrafts existing design features with mask-wearing creates a low-risk environment for COVID19 transmission. As always, airlines, manufacturers and every entity involved in aviation will be guided by science and global best practices to keep flying safe for passengers and crew.

See also: Airports, Air Travel and COVID19 - Exclusive Interview with SITA's President of Asia Pacific, Sumesh Patel.

See latest Travel News, Video Interviews, Podcasts and other news regarding: COVID19, IATA, Air Travel.

Headlines: Hong Kong Int. Airport Handled Just 8.8 Million Passengers in 2020  Rosewood Signs Very Special Property in Rome, Italy  Cathay Pacific Develops Solution for Vaccine Distribution  Fiji Link Launches Mobile Boarding Passes at Nadi, Suva and Labasa  Latitude 33 Takes Delivery of New Challenger 350 Business Jet  Mesa Opens New Maintenance Hangar at Beja Airport in Portugal  Bangkok Airways Revises Operating Hours of Airports in Thailand  Four Seasons Philadelphia Appoints Charles Lasvigne as Hotel Manager  Singapore Airlines Raises US$500 Million via USD Bond  British Airways Partners Globe-Trotter for 150 Handmade Suitcases  Four Seasons Appoints Albert Au as Executive Chef of Jiang-Nan Chun  All Nippon Helicopters' Airbus H160 Performs Maiden Flight  Travelport Expands Digital Media Solutions with TravelFlan Partnership  Atlas Air to Buy Last Four Brand New Boeing 747 Airplanes  Air Canada to Layoff 1,700 More Employees; Reduces Q1 Capacity  Etihad Airways Launches Children Travel for Free Promotion  Accor Signs First 25hours Hotel in Sydney, Australia  Gordon Ramsay Partners Sunway for First Restaurant in Malaysia  New COVID19 Variants Don't Change the Rules of the Game  Green Light for American Airlines, JetBlue Alliance  DHL Invests in New 13,000㎡ Facility in South Africa  FlyArystan Carried 1.5 Million Passengers in 2020  Dassault Aviation Expands MRO Options  Navy in Asia Pacific Orders Seagull USVs for MCM Operations  Korean Air Receives 5-Star Rating from APEX  IHG Signs Second Crowne Plaza Hotel in Danang, Vietnam  Ascott Reports Record Year; Adds Over 14,200 Units in 71 Properties  Executive Appointments at Delta Cargo  Jeju Air Renews Distribution Agreement with Sabre  Finnair Launches One-Way Fares on Domestic and Intra-Europe Flights  Scandinavian Airlines' President and CEO Resigns  Qatar Airways Resumes Flights to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia  SAS Carried Almost 400,000 Passengers in December  Marriott Signs Dual-Branded Property in Saigon, Vietnam  Cathay Pacific Adds WhatsApp to Customer Service Options  Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong to Complete Renovation on 1 February  Four Seasons Napa Valley to Open Early-Spring  Israir to Dry Lease Etihad's Full-Flight Simulators  Airbus Delivered 566 Commercial Aircraft to 87 Customers in 2020  Tom Kerridge Upgrades Culinary Options on BA's Short Haul Flights  Nicola Russo Joins Capella Ubud as Executive Chef  Aviation: Recovery in Passenger Demand Grinds to a Halt in November  Singapore Airlines Extends PPS Club and KrisFlyer Elite Statuses  Langham Opens Cordis Hotel in Hangzhou, China  Air Cargo Demand Continues to Improve; Capacity Remains Constrained  Assa Abloy Upgrades Hotel Room Locks at Hilton Surfer's Paradise  St. Regis Hotel Opens in Cairo, Egypt  Korean Air Upgrades App and Website  Marriott Opens 55-Room Boutique Hotel in Lucca, Italy  Four Seasons Seychelles Reopens for Private Retreats  Hyatt Opens First Regency Hotel in Cambodia  Bangkok Airways Closes Lounges, Reduces Flights and Delays Launches  Qatar Airways Increases Flights to São Paulo, Brazil  Asia Pacific Airlines Carried Just 1.4 Million Int. Pax in November  Korean Air Delays Changes to SkyPass FFP; Extends Mileage Validity  STR Appoints Isaac Collazo as Vice President of Analytics  IHG Opens Second voco Hotel in France  Cathay Pacific to Operate Number of Flights to London Heathrow  Hong Kong Extends Airport Relief Package  Cathay Pacific Cargo Launches Flights to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia  Marriott Expands JW Brand to Australia with New Gold Coast Hotel  Alaska Airlines Orders More Boeing 737-9 Aircraft  Japan Airlines and Qantas to Form Joint Business  Bombardier Completes Acquisition of Service Centre in Berlin  Aircalin Takes Delivery of First Airbus A320neo  Etihad Airways Launches Charter and Special Flight Services  Shangri-La Offers Free COVID19 Insurance at Hotels in Singapore  Qatar Airways Takes Delivery of 53rd Airbus A350 Aircraft  Lenen Mar A. Porras Joins Cambodia's Dara Hotels Group  Emirates Celebrates Launch of Premium Economy Class with Free Upgrades  Bombardier Receives Firm Order for 10 Challenger 350 Aircraft  Linda Hemels Joins Capella Singapore as EAM - Food & Beverage  Will British & Irish Lions' Tour of South Africa Go Ahead?  Qatar Airways Cargo Takes Delivery of Three More Boeing 777 Freighters  Four Seasons Returns to Bangkok with Brand New Hotel on the River  Cathay Pacific Carried Just 37,815 Passengers in November  Dhaalu Airport Just 7 Minutes from Niyama Private Islands in Maldives  Alma Resort in Vietnam Appoints Two Executive Sous Chefs  Héli-Union Orders Two Airbus H160 Helicopters  Air Canada Operates 4,000th All-Cargo Service Since March  BA CityFlyer to Operate Southampton - Europe Flights  Air Greenland to Replace A330-200ceo with A330-800  Onyx Hospitality Signs First Shama Resort  Lufthansa Signs New Distribution Agreement with Sabre  Air Canada Launches Thrice Weekly Flights to Doha, Qatar  Faradair Aerospace Targets 300 Bio Electric Hybrid Aircraft by 2030  Hi Fly Bids Farewell to Airbus A380  IATA Unveils Key Design Elements of Travel Pass  Plaza Premium and marhaba Form Strategic Partnership  Jesper Soerensen Joins The Standard Huruvalhi Maldives as GM  First Phase of The Londoner Macao to Open in Q1 2021  S Hotels & Resorts Unveils Major Expansion Plans  FedEx Takes Delivery of World's First Purpose-Built ATR Freighter  Rezen to Promote New World and Tongpai Hotels in China  Atomize Appoints Michael McCartan as Chief Growth Officer  IATA Calls for Employees in Aviation to be Considered Essential Workers  Air Canada Appoints Amos Kazzaz as EVP and CFO  Boeing Awarded US$109m Contract for New Zealand P-8A Poseidon Training  IHG Signs First voco Hotel in Vietnam  First Ritz-Carlton Reserve Opens in Japan  China Airlines Expands Cargo Fleet with First of Six Boeing 777F Aircraft  Russian Helicopters Begins Production of First Mi-171A3 Prototype  Air France Adds Bordeaux to Train + Air Service  Air New Zealand to Operate Special Flight for Wildfoods Festival in March  AirAsia X Looking to Raise RM500 Million  Elbit Systems to Upgrade Romanian Air Force's IAR-99 Aircraft  Cebu Pacific Adds Second ATR Freighter to Fleet  Four Points by Sheraton Sydney Central Park Put Up For Sale  Hong Kong Int. Airport Handled 81,000 Passengers in November  British Airways Partners ZeroAvia on Hydrogen-Powered Aircraft Project  Bali Hotels Association Appoints New Chairman and Vice Chair  Charlie Parker Joins Four Seasons Resort Hualalai as General Manager  EcoPulse Hybrid Aircraft Demonstrator Passes Preliminary Design Review  Flair Airlines Appoints Garth Lund as Chief Commercial Officer  Singapore to Lift Border Restrictions for Visitors from Taiwan  Inmarsat's GX5 Delivers Massive Capacity Boost to Europe and Middle East  Scott Kirby Appointed Chairman of Star Alliance's Chief Executive Board  COVID19 Testing Facilities for Departing Pax Open at Hong Kong Airport  Oxford Researchers to Analyse Data from oneworld's COVID19 Trial  ASEAN Tourism Forum 2021 Postponed Until January 2022  HD Videos and Interviews  Podcasts from HD Video Interviews  RSS News Feed and Ticker  Travel Trade Shows in 2020 and 2021  High-Res Picture Galleries  Travel News Asia - Latest Travel Industry News 

Receive our Latest Travel News Daily Email free of charge by entering your email address and name in the boxes to the right and clicking subscribe. You can also receive the news by WhatsApp, stay updated with our RSS Feed Free Travel News RSS Feed, and even Add the Headlines to Your Website free of charge. Have questions? Please read our travel news FAQ.

     
Advertising
Advertising
Copyright © 1997-2021 TravelNewsAsia.com