The recognised body for international airlines has concluded air travel is low risk for COVID-19 transmission.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) is the global trade association of airlines. With 290 members, the group comprises of 82% of total air traffic, and as governments work towards resuming regular air travel, the IATA tweeted “There is a low risk of virus transmission onboard aircraft, even without special measures”.
The body added that the cabin environment makes transmission inefficient for many possible reasons.
The IATA calls for all passengers and crew to wear face masks
As governments plan to safely restart air travel, it is crucial to note that there is a low risk of virus transmission on board aircraft, even without special measures.
The cabin environment makes transmission inefficient for many possible reasons👇
— IATA (@IATA) May 8, 2020
The IATA does NOT support empty middle seats
The body concluded that while it would be crucial to wear face coverings, they do not support social distancing on planes, which means leaving some seats empty.
“The safety of passengers and crew is paramount. The aviation industry is working with governments to re-start flying when this can be done safely. Evidence suggests that the risk of transmission on board aircraft is low. And we will take measures—such as the wearing of face coverings by passengers and masks by crew—to add extra layers of protection. We must arrive at a solution that gives passengers the confidence to fly and keeps the cost of flying affordable. One without the other will have no lasting benefit,” – Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s Director General and CEO.
The report listed several recommendations for airlines to implement
- Passengers and crew to wear face coverings
- Temperature screening of passengers, airport workers and travellers
- Boarding and deplaning processes that reduce contact with other passengers or crew
- Limiting movement within the cabin during the flight
- More frequent and deeper cabin cleaning
- Simplified catering procedures that lower crew movement and interaction with passengers
The report goes on to state why COVID-19 is unlikely to spread during on-board transmission; because passengers sit face forward, seats provide a barrier to transmission forward to aft in the cabin, the airflow direction reduces the potential for transmission along with high-quality air filters and fresh air circulation onboard flights.
“The cabin environment naturally makes transmission of viruses difficult for a variety of reasons. That helps explain why we have seen little evidence of onboard transmission. In the immediate term, our aim is to make the cabin environment even safer with effective measures so that passengers and crew can return to travel with confidence. Screening, face coverings and masks are among the many layers of measures that we are recommending. Leaving the middle seat empty, however, is not,”- Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s Director General and CEO.