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Avatar universal

How safe is airline travel?

How safe is it to travel in a plane? Would you fly right now?

Apparently no one has been identified to have been infected during a flight.

According to this article, however, the contact tracing of people who may have been exposed to identified positive airline passengers is poor in many countries.

It is hard to believe since most passengers were unmasked until recently.

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/ndp-health-critic-airlines-covid19-1.5656095

"We are collecting data on the possibility of transmission onboard aircraft. With everything that is being done on aircraft, with respect to cleaning between flights, with respect to the air flow system, with the way the air flows on the aircraft, there is no evidence, there is not a case yet of somebody actually picking up the virus onboard the aircraft," he said.

Also  https://www.usatoday.com/story/travel/columnist/cox/2020/07/03/flying-during-coronavirus-how-often-do-airlines-replace-hepa-filters/5363489002/
https://www.usatoday.com/story/travel/columnist/cox/2020/05/07/coronavirus-jets-hepa-filters-capable-removing-particulates/5175787002/
10 Responses
Avatar universal
According to this article, however the contact tracing of people who may have been exposed to identified positive airline passengers is poor in many countries.
It is hard to believe since most passengers were unmasked until recently.
https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/ndp-health-critic-airlines-covid19-1.5656095
"We are collecting data on the possibility of transmission onboard aircraft. With everything that is being done on aircraft, with respect to cleaning between flights, with respect to the air flow system, with the way the air flows on the aircraft, there is no evidence, there is not a case yet of somebody actually picking up the virus onboard the aircraft," he said.

Also  https://www.usatoday.com/story/travel/columnist/cox/2020/07/03/flying-during-coronavirus-how-often-do-airlines-replace-hepa-filters/5363489002/
https://www.usatoday.com/story/travel/columnist/cox/2020/05/07/coronavirus-jets-hepa-filters-capable-removing-particulates/5175787002/
3 Comments
I have heard from experts on the news that the airflow on an airplane is not great for covid spread.  You have air control right over your head, and if you aim it down, I think, it helps even more.  But I'm guessing it has to be a high risk endeavor that because everyone knows is high risk they take a lot of precautions.  You can see that not many are flying now compared to normal, so people are not confident about it.  But there doesn't at this point seem to be a lot of proven spread on them.  But I think Anxious makes a good point, proof isn't readily available on much with this virus at this point.
Also, don't forget the very high risk of getting to the airport, what you have to do at the airport to get on a plane, etc.  It's not just the doing of things, it's also the getting to where you do it.
I called my city bus system on a guy waiting at the stop who hacked non stop for 5 minutes just now. Unfortunately the driver had picked him up before the report was done but dispatch told me they would deal with it.  Those kinds of people don't care about anyone, and they're everywhere although likely in small numbers on a plane.
Also, you would think if anyone who was isolated beforehand and after his flight but sick later, that he would complain to the authorities he got it from the plane. Flight attendants would be complaining to the media if they were getting Covid.
3191940 tn?1447268717
There are plentiful reports of flight staff being infected with COVID.
https://www.latimes.com/travel/story/2020-04-15/words-you-dont-want-to-hear-from-a-flight-attendant-i-tested-positive
https://www.usatoday.com/story/travel/airline-news/2020/07/07/covid-19-hawaiian-airlines-flight-attendants-positive-coronavirus/5392105002/
https://www.paddleyourownkanoo.com/2020/07/22/qantas-cabin-crew-were-discouraged-from-wearing-face-masks-or-gloves-because-it-wouldnt-look-right/
2 Comments
Thanks for the links. The stories are interesting.
Dan and the female seem to get it from the coughing guy at the table although her symptoms came too early.
The Hawaiians got it at HQ.
Qantas’ medical director, Dr Ian Hosegood. Instead, he claimed crew members had “almost certainly” become infected during layovers.
Anyway I'm not going to be able to figure out who is right. I will leave it to the researchers.
My memory is that when covid first broke out airline employees were hit hard, but that's how this virus has gone -- we don't get it shopping at grocery stores, but a lot of employees of them did get it.  As users we're not exposed for long periods of time, but for employees, they are.  
Avatar universal
Emirates airline, the United Arab Emirates flag carrier, has become the world's first airline to offer to cover customers' medical expenses and quarantine costs should they contract Covid-19 during their trip.          https://www.cnn.com/travel/article/emirates-covid-19-expenses-cover/index.html
740419 tn?1309278186
"Here’s how coronavirus spreads on a plane—and the safest place to sit"
https://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/2020/01/how-coronavirus-spreads-on-a-plane/

"How Coronavirus Spread In One Restaurant Shows Why Air Travel Is Safer Than You Think"
https://www.forbes.com/sites/willhorton1/2020/04/22/how-coronavirus-spread-in-one-restaurant-shows-why-air-travel-is-safer-than-you-think/#2e468ddd1972

Regardless of the scientific data for the air circulation inside the plane, don't forget the "walkway of death" when boarding or getting off the aircraft, where a steady flow of air is hitting you directly in the face, possibly carrying respiratory droplets from people who don't care about the others as much as you do:

https://www.bbc.com/worklife/article/20200612-why-coronavirus-will-change-how-we-board-a-plane

I worked with many people who came down with the flu and missed a few days of work (in normal times) right after flying, I don't see how the coronavirus would be more forgiving. Take care.
5 Comments
That might not have been because of catching it on the plane, though.  Airplane travel, if it's long distance, is very hard on the system.  A lot of oxidation takes place when you cross time zones.  There's the problem many have of sleeping.  There's anxiety about flying.  Lots of reasons why you might get sick after flying that doesn't mean you got in on the plane.  Flu is everywhere.  And now so is covid.
Where did I say my former coworkers caught the flu on the plane? No need to react to every single post, Paxiled.
troubaqdour I also thought you meant here that they caught it on the plane. "I worked with many people who came down with the flu and missed a few days of work (in normal times) right after flying,"
Hi, troubador, I think Paxiled's posts in the Covid community help it, as he is neither claiming there is no problem nor hiding in a closet until the world ends, a good thing in a community that also attracts doubters that there is even a pandemic and those washing their vegetables with bleach and being frightened to touch the cardboard on delivery boxes. Also, it isn't possible to write for public consumption and NEVER write a sentence that could legitimately be read one way or another way. I'm sorry if it bothered you that Paxiled reacted to your post in a way you didn't intend, but in my opinion he is a good voice of reason here and I wouldn't mind if he commented on every post in the community. We're none of us without our quirks, please just them flow off your back when they (inevitably) appear. :-)
In defense of troubador, you're right, I don't need to comment on every single post.  I have OCD.  If I didn't have an anxiety problem, I wouldn't be on this site at all.  But given I am here, I'm just someone who likes a good conversation, and I don't need to be agreed with.  I learn a lot by being disagreed with.  I like being disagreed with.  So again, you're right, I don't have to comment on every single post, but I guess I do on the forums I follow.  Don't take it personally, anyone.
Avatar universal
One of the Hawaiian Airlines Covid cluster victims in the article died yesterday. He said on day 1 of the training session there was no sd or masks (except himself since he was the only one worried about Covid.) How dumb can people bein late June 2020? Well, day 2 was even worse. Afterwards HA put in some guidelines for future training sessions to protect people.
4 Comments
How dumb can people be?  Where I live, if you go out to where the restaurant and bars are concentrated, there are hundreds of young people out crowded together and not wearing masks.  How dumb?  Pretty dumb.
And let me add, right now across the street there are about a dozen yard workers doing some kind of work on someone's house,.  None of them are distancing and none are wearing masks.  
I think it is hard to get it outdoors because all the reading I did said there just 1 infection reported from the protests despite lots of people not sd. I read a few states city reports where they did mass testing of protestors but didn't find any cases other than 1. I haven't read of any studies on protest infections though. I also wonder how an airline could be so dumb to hold indoor training without sd. One problem is some people are afraid to stand out in the crowd (not me, I would have walked off) so didn't complain at the training session, the other could be false sense of security that your co-workers must be ok, which I see among my neighbors getting too close to each other.
Almost everyone at those protests are wearing masks, if only to avoid the tear gas, but they have mostly been that way the whole time.  These guys were close together, working all day probably every day, and not wearing masks.  It is a lot harder to get outdoors, but remember those Memorial Day gatherings that kicked off the virus overtaking the entire country?  A lot of those folks were outdoors, but they were crowded together.  These guys were crowded together.  I hope none of them have a problem, but why take that risk?  They could have spaced themselves out and could have worn masks.  All of those guys were probably from Central America, and they are one of the hardest hit communities because of these kinds of working conditions and the inability to not work.  And they were in my neighborhood, with lots of the folks here doing their covid thing around them.  Maybe I'm just past my patience point with this thing, Anxious -- it shouldn't be this way in the US.  It's exhausting.
Avatar universal
I would say that the flight isn’t that high risk but the destination could be. Hotspots like the USA (currently) are not good places to travel unless you have to.
10 Comments
The problem there, Jared, is that "the U.S." is a big country. To say every single place in the U.S. is "a hotspot" is not true. Some places in the U.S. are in awful straits with no more ICU beds, others have not even seen one case, and others are in between. For example, the county in which I live includes several towns and cities and has a population of 420,000 people. So far, the whole county has had a total of 20 Covid deaths.

I think in it's smart not to travel unless one has to during this pandemic, and I assume that other countries that ban travellers from the U.S. simply can't be bothering with niceties like trying to figure out if someone comes from a place in the U.S. that that has low numbers. But it's not as simple as you're saying.
So far, Annie, so far.  The virus is very likely headed your way.  The places hardest hit right now are the ones lightest hit a few months ago.  As soon as one region gets to the down side, another region flares up.  Many very lightly populated areas are now getting hit.  Granted, because they don't have a lot of people they won't see a ton of cases, and the deaths aren't as high as in the beginning because younger people are now getting infected and docs are way better at not killing people.  So while it's true there are places in the US that are relatively light in cases, because we as a people and a gov't didn't do what was necessary it is now everywhere.  Two lightly populated areas in Texas are now two of the nation's hot spots.  Because we didn't crush it, it is everywhere, and where the airports are isn't necessarily where the lightly hit places are and you have to get from one place to the other.  I'm not sure how dangerous flying is, but I do agree with the post that the danger of traveling in the US is too great a risk right now.  
At this point a lot depends on how urbanized your state is and the demographics. Previously new Covid cases were mainly in care homes. People under 40 now make up the bulk of new cases in most places that I have followed, since there are a large number of people in that group who don't believe Covid is real or it won't affect them so they even have Covid infection parties. etc. They tend to be more dangerous in bigger towns and cities because of the anonymity.  People in Maine and the 4 Maritime provinces in Canada say many of the young people migrated years ago for better job prospects so there is a high % of seniors there taking care to avoid it, which is why their rates are low.
There are (relatively) low numbers where I live (that is, compared to a lot of other states) not because we haven't had exposure, but because the governor shut down the state early. Since Oregon is in between Washington and California, decisionmakers would have had to have their heads in the sand to miss the risk, especially once we had our first nursing-home cluster. The first serious move the state took was in mid-March (closing the schools and moving the kids to computer learning) and then there was a period of business lockdowns in all Oregon counties. As transmission rates eased, a lot of restrictions have been eased. But they will shut down any county again if there is an increase. (This happened once already in Multnomah County, where Portland is. They were the last to be allowed to reopen, and then they were shut down again.)

What it looks like day to day is that a lot of places are closed, and those that are open, you can't enter without masking up. But it's nerve-wracking to go anyway, because who knows for sure how much good masks do ... there's this underlying worry that at some point the virus will get you no matter how hard you try to stay safe. Construction workers, garbage collectors, and landscape teams and the like all work as normal, but there isn't daycare for essential workers, social distancing is not possible at some jobs, and people aren't getting together much. (We went to my sister's house and sat in her back yard wearing masks to celebrate my mom's 91st birthday. We had to go in shifts to keep the group to under ten people per the governor's mandate, nobody ate anything, and it was pretty hard to talk.) And this is what "good" looks like. Nothing is normal.

I'm was merely reacting to the description of "the USA" as "a hotspot." Not every place within the USA is the same. The ER's in some states are perfect hell -- I've gotten emails from a friend who is an anesthesiologist about the people stacked up outside the ICU waiting for help. Other places, either because they are remote physically or because they have been shut down to deiberately manage the virus like here, well, you wouldn't call them hotspots.  I'm fully aware that if everyone goes out and acts like there's no virus, people will get sick in rising numbers again. But I don't think a blanket description of "the USA" as a hotspot tells the whole story.
You're very lucky, Annie, to live in Oregon.  It's amazing what good gov't can do.  But then I look at California, which crushed the virus for a long time, and just after opening up the people in LA and Orange County went nuts and California is now ground zero.  You just never know.  Right now, the hot spots are finally at a plateau, though a very high plateau, and it's now surging in the middle of the country.  This virus moves incredibly fast if you're stupid.  The stupid countries are sinking, while most of the world is doing okay, their schools are open, and life is somewhat normal, though masked and all.  It's just the US, Brazil, Russia, well, no need to keep going, it's the stupid countries.  As for urban areas being worse, it's because the denser the population the more contact between large numbers of people.  That is no consolation, though, for those in rural areas who are now sick or have permanently damaged organs or are dead.  It may not be high numbers, but it is numbers that didn't have to be as high as they have been.  But this too shall pass, I hope.  There will just be a lot fewer of us around when it does and a lot more permanently sick people to add to the already high rate of sick people we had before.  Maybe we'll learn something about staying healthy and eating better and having a clean environment and food supply and water supply we have better resistance to all diseases.  Peace.
I am not saying in any of this that I think flying is a good idea. It tops every list of what to avoid if you don't want to risk Covid-19; people are crowded together for long periods of time once they get on the plane (and a lot of airlines that promised to keep the middle seat empty have gone back on that promise), and generally can't social distance when getting to the planes, such as lining up for a boarding pass, going through TSA, moving through the concourse or walking down the ramps. Not to mention, people from everywhere are in an airport. Safety-related restrictions that would seem logical in planes are still as poorly realized as in other places (like at bars or the beach) because the businesses involved feel their survival is at stake and have lobbied hard to be able to keep operating as usual. (Even in Oregon with its scanty 325 deaths so far, the numbers are rising, and the governor still gets flack over any restriction. A small business that is about to go under doesn't think a firm hand with shutdowns "good government," believe me.) Because the money that supports politicians is not on the side of safety but instead favors business, I don't look to the government to police the airline industry further.  All one can do is not fly.
Here is an updated article that says if proper precautions are taken, an airline trip may be safer than grocery shopping (if they are referring to the shopping trip I made a few months ago I agree.) https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/covid-transmission-flights-extremely-rare-1.5797065
"It estimated that, in order to receive an infectious dose, a passenger would need to fly 54 hours on a plane with an infected person."
Sanjay Gupta, a neurosurgeon who somehow finds the time to be the medical correspondent for CNN, ran a segment several months ago explaining how to fly as safely as possible.  It seems being a passenger on the plane is pretty safe if one follows all the protocols, partly because of the individual air system right above you.  Apparently, air flow on a plane is about as good as it gets for avoiding covid indoors.  However, one has to get to the airport, do what you need to do in the airport, and then do what you have to do when you get where you're going, so if you add all of that in, I'm guessing a lot depends on where you're traveling from and where you're going.  I believe a lot of airline workers did get covid, as they are repeatedly exposed while a traveler is only exposed when they travel, which right now probably isn't often unless you're running for office.  
If millions of passengers have not ever got it from inside the plane because of the filtering and fresh air then it doesn't matter how many times the workers flew - there are way more passengers than crew on any flight. Zero risk for a crew member times multiple occurrences = zero transmission.
This article says lots of air marshals think they got it from flying but no one has proven it. The Irish flight of 13 cases contradicts the Harvard study though.
It's not zero risk, obviously, as many of these workers did get it.  But they might not have gotten on the airplane.  Again, covid is rampant everywhere, and workers who have to go to work have to get there, and they interact with many people on the ground.  All I've heard is the airplane itself is pretty safe, but not all the other places one has to deal with in order to get to the plane.  A passenger is required to do a lot of things in order to fly as well that baggage loaders etc. may not be doing, as many workplaces have proven to be places to get sick.  We agree, it appears the inside of a plane seems to be pretty safe, but then one has to negotiate the rest of the world.  Someone is spreading this stuff all over the place, and I'm assuming particularly when it first spread it was airline passengers an employees carrying it around.  Somehow it got from China to the west coast and from Italy to the east coast, and so it goes.  I just went through this a few weeks ago when my wife's Mom died.  She had to go comfort her elderly father and flew there.  Before that, she had decided to travel for a visit by train, thinking it would be safer than a plane because she could get a compartment and stay in it, but I felt the plane was safer because it was quick but both modes would require interacting with all sorts of people before getting to the train car or interior of the plane.  And then you have to deal with all the people wherever it is you're going and the cab driver or Uber driver and etc. etc.  But she had to go, and we took the risk, and fortunately she didn't kill her off her Dad or bring it back to me, so all was well.  It's not a great time to be alive, no?
18524847 tn?1465595901
n-o,  Cause here is the thing . . .   for YEARS . . . literally years . . . we've all heard that planes circulate the air in such a way that germs stay put and you can get sick.  WHY would covid 19 be different?  Maybe they've not had a lot of outbreaks but how much travel are people doing? Asymptomatic people are still the threat.  I'd have to be dragged kicking and screaming on a plane right now.  
3 Comments
Turns out they don't circulate air in a harmful way, according to the experts now.  Probably didn't pay as much attention to it until covid has nearly put the airline industry out of biz, and it would be a very expensive biz to rebuild from scratch.  Now, I'm with you on flying, but it's not the plane apparently, it's everywhere else you go when you travel.  
Not sure about that.  But regardless, close quarters with rude people who don't wear masks because they need to eat their snacks on the plane is a preventative measure for me flying.  
I don't know the answer, but are they still actually serving snacks or anything else on airplanes?  I thought mask-wearing was mandatory at all times or you're banned from flying.  One carrier has started testing everyone before they're allowed on the plane.  But again, to me, it really doesn't matter because you still have to negotiate all the encounters you have getting to the plane and getting off the plane and going to wherever it is you're going.  Right now particularly, since covid is now everywhere since we never really did much about it.  
Avatar universal
Paxiled Nov 16
"Turns out they don't circulate air in a harmful way, according to the experts now.  Probably didn't pay as much attention to it until covid has nearly put the airline industry out of biz" That is a wrong guess, so not "probably". The airlines always had the expensive filtration systems, which also has lots of fresh air intake and the article I linked before said they changed the filters ahead of manufacturer's recommended dates.
mombojombo Nov 16
"close quarters with rude people who don't wear masks because they need to eat their snacks on the plane is a preventative measure for me flying."  Read my Nov 10 articles linked to studies. I don't fly either but there have been many airline passengers this year with depending on the study says no transmission occurred in the cabin. The airlines require masks and for people to face forward so I imagine people are not allowed to take their masks off for long while snacking. There have been lots of arrivals who turned up positive, so there have definitely been infectious people on the planes.
1 Comments
Anxious, I'm not sure that is what is helping.  Of course, neither of us know and neither does anyone else really, but I believe I have referred before to a video made by Sanjay Gupta, a neurosurgeon who is also chief medical correspondent for CNN who does daily covid reports since this thing started.  What he has said is what makes a plane different is you have control over the air flow somewhat because you can adjust the flow right above you.  His recommendation was to point it down right on you, as his reporting showed that experts believed this actually acted like outdoor air flow and blew away at least some of any airborne particles.  Meaning, it may not be just the filtration system, it may be how the air flow is located on a plane.  I don't think air flow on planes was ever a disease prevention measure as much as a comfort measure, as not being able to breathe all that great on a vehicle many people are afraid to be on was bad for business.  But whatever.
Avatar universal
Article today says this. ""The rare cases where we have seen transmission on airplanes it's on the long flights, the ones that are five hours, or more like nine hours, 14 hours," Marr said."        https://www.cnn.com/travel/article/air-travel-risk-covid-19-wellness/index.html              It gives tips on the best ways to try to protect yourself.
973741 tn?1342342773
I think I get sick every time I've flown.  Pass. Hard pass.  
4 Comments
sm  It is good that travelers now realize that washing, masking and pointing the airflow (as Paxil mentioned) help prevent disease to the point that the studies have shown that it MIGHT never occur. In the past you were traveling with people who never thought about those measures (or weren't forced to mask up) so it is impossible to determine the cause of your sickness.  I see so many maskless or deliberately improperly worn masks in stores that I wonder if we will aver be able to stop disease but at least on planes these people are forced into some high level of compliance.
One thing to consider is the length of the trip.  Also, if you suffer anxiety when you fly and before flying.  Flying across time zones creates a lot of oxidation, and that can lead to illness because of a weakening of our defenses.  Taking certain antioxidants can help with this, especially for those who have to fly long distances a lot.  That's where it really messes with us.  Wheatgrass for glutathione and melatonin are two I know are used.  
anxiousnomore, it does help that people may be more aware but the selfish nature of people makes me doubtful they'll comply or even care.  I wouldn't risk it.  Once on a plane, you are stuck.
My wife's Mom died recently and she had to fly.  It wasn't a really long flight.  The scary parts weren't on the plane.  People on the plane had to follow strict protocols.  The problem was getting there, and getting to where she was going.  And frankly, the most dangerous part was closely interacting with her two nephews, in their twenties, because that's who is out there partying and ignoring the restrictions the most and spreading the disease the most outside of superspreader events like that bike rally and the President's campaign rallies and the like.  Young people are bringing it home and to bars and restaurants while I'm guessing most of us older folks are staying home most of the time.  But when we interact, that's when it spreads.  So I can only speak for that one flight, but that's how it went for her.  It all turned out well covid wise, not so much for everyone especially her Dad grief wise.  Peace, all.
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