With the increasing influx of passengers in flights, is it risky to fly amid the coronavirus pandemic? Traveling in close proximity for several hours, does it increase the chances of getting COVID-19?

Flights linked to COVID-19 have made the headlines recently. Recently, 16 people tested positive for the virus on a TUI flight into Cardiff from the Greek island of Zante, and eight tested positive on a Wizz Air flight from Crete into London Luton. So is taking a flight dangerous at the moment? Experts have reiterated that flying is not as hazardous as some may think.

Dr. Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins University Center for Health Security in Baltimore and a spokesman for the Infectious Diseases Society of America, highlighted that flying is not as risky as most people perceive it to be. He added that people often think of planes as major vectors for transmission, but overall, there isn’t much data on the transmission on a plane, except for people that are in the immediate vicinity of that person.

Planes have highly effective ventilation systems in place. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) stated that Hepa (high-efficiency particulate air) filters are effective at capturing greater than 99.9 percent of the airborne microbes in the filtered air. So air supply is essentially sterile and particle-free. David Nabarro, a World Health Organisation (WHO) special envoy for Covid-19, reiterated that aircraft travel is relatively safe thanks to this powerful ventilation. 

Regardless of what fliers may think, the same air is not recycled and pumped through the aircraft throughout the flight. The modern system sees 50% fresh air and 50% filtered, recirculated air delivered to a plane cabin. Moreover, most airlines are enforcing the wearing of face masks, and some leave the middle seat open or limit the number of passengers on board. Carriers have also implemented more cleaning and more rigorous passenger temperature checks, all of which will help to reduce the spread of coronavirus.

Experts state that there are ways passengers can reduce the chances of getting ill themselves. Washing hands remains the best way to fight coronavirus.