Reducing The Risk Of In Flight COVID-19 Transmission

AirAsia Resumes Flights From Malaysia Amid The Global Coronavirus Pandemic

KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA – APRIL 29: A female AirAsia flight attendant wears a face mask as she waits for a buggy ride to the Kuala Lumpur International Airport 2 (KLIA2) Terminal building on April 29, 2020 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. AirAsia are resuming its scheduled domestic flights today, commencing with Malaysia followed by Thailand, the Phillipines, India and Indonesia, subject to approval of the authorities. (Photo by Rahman Roslan/Getty Images)


All of us fly. Last year, more than 1.5 billion people took to the air. Flying both short and long distances has become a way of life not just for the privileged, but for the many.

We always knew air travel was a good way to catch a cold. Many of us took pains to wipe down all surfaces we were likely to touch, including the seat belt buckle.

In the end, what we were afraid of was the air. A passenger near us, one passing by, or even one further away might be spreading viruses. There is even risk of catching tuberculosis, the drug resistant kind, if you fly to and from India like I do.

It turns out our fears, reinforced by our experience, were correct. Michael Laris of the Washington Post has written a deeply researched article on air travel contagion, and he only described the airplanes, not the airports.

Contagion while flying is nothing new, even for the coronavirus. Transmission in flight of the SARS virus has been studied in detail. What have airlines done since? Precious little.

The article emphasizes the use of person friendly, virus killing ultraviolet light as one approach. The scientist in me says sure, that should help—but it will not be enough.

We should ask what the airlines, aircraft manufacturers, and their regulators are really doing to keep us safe. The time is now past when we just sit down, buckle up, and sneeze.


Read full article on Forbes

Originally published on Forbes (April 29, 2020)

© William A. Haseltine, PhD. All Rights Reserved.