The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has demonstrated the low incidence of inflight Covid-19 transmission with an updated tally of published cases.
Since the start of 2020 there have been just 44 cases of Covid-19 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 1.2bn passengers have travelled.
“The risk of a passenger contracting Covid-19 while onboard appears very low,” said Dr David Powell, IATA’s Medical Advisor.
“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 27m travellers. We think these figures are extremely reassuring. Furthermore, the vast majority of published cases occurred before the wearing of face coverings inflight became widespread.”
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:
IATA’s 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.
Also see Cabin safety – A US Appraisal in this week's BTN.