This will be seen as a positive sign for the airline industry as it tries to bounce back pandemicoverwhelming effect on travel.
When a seated passenger wears a mask, on average 0.003% of air particles in the breathing zone around a person’s head are infectious – even when every seat is occupied, the study suggests.
Tests assumed there was only one infected person on the plane and did not simulate the effects of passenger movement around the cabin.
Experts conducted the study on a United Airlines Boeing 777 and 767 aircraft and say it showed that the masks helped minimize exposure to infection when someone coughed, even in neighboring seats.
It revealed that about 99.99% of the particles were filtered out of the cabin within six minutes due to the rapid airflow, down-ventilation and filtration systems of the aircraft.
And he estimated that a passenger would need to fly 54 hours on a plane with a person with coronavirus to receive an infectious dose.
“These results … signify your chances of COVID exposure on a United aircraft is almost non-existent, even if your flight is full, ”said Toby Enqvist, director of customer service at United Airlines.
The study was conducted and funded by Transportation Command, which operates Patriot Express flights that use commercial jets like United for members of the military and their families.
It took place over six months and involved 300 tests during 38 hours of flight and 45 hours of ground testing.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) said it had identified only 44 cases of COVID-19 linked to the flight since the start of 2020, up from around 1.2 billion passengers who have traveled during that time.
IATA chief executive Alexandre de Juniac said “nothing is completely risk-free” but published cases of potential transmission of COVID-19 in flight show that “the risk of contracting the virus on board appears to be in the same category as being struck by lightning ”.
The pandemic has hit the aviation industry hard – and in the United States, the number of air travel is still down 65% from a year ago.