The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has announced they support airline crew wearing masks and passengers wearing masks or other facial coverings while on board aircraft. However, they do not support leaving middle seats empty as a mandatory form of social distancing.
The IATA represents, leads and serves the airline industry and this call from them came in the form of a press release on May 5th.
“The safety of passengers and crew is paramount. The aviation industry is working with governments to re-start flying when this can be done safely. Evidence suggests that the risk of transmission on board aircraft is low. And we will take measures—such as the wearing of face coverings by passengers and masks by crew—to add extra layers of protection. We must arrive at a solution that gives passengers the confidence to fly and keeps the cost of flying affordable. One without the other will have no lasting benefit,” said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s Director General and CEO.
The WHO has reported that, as evidenced by research, there is little risk of any communicable disease being transmitted on board an aircraft. “Ventilation rates provide a total change of air 20–30 times per hour,” they say. “Most modern aircraft have recirculation systems, which recycle up to 50% of cabin air. The recirculated air is usually passed through HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filters, of the type used in hospital operating theatres and intensive care units, which trap dust particles, bacteria, fungi and viruses.”
IATA maintains that since coronavirus is spread primarily by respiratory droplets, planes provide their own form of barriers. For example, passengers face forward, with limited face-to-face interaction. The plane’s seats also provide a barrier to transmission. This is on top of the airflow and use of HEPA filters, as described above.
Besides mask use, IATA does currently propose:
- Temperature screening of passengers, airport workers and travelers
- Boarding and deplaning processes that reduce contact with other passengers or crew
- Limiting movement within the cabin during flight
- More frequent and deeper cabin cleaning
- Simplified catering procedures that lower crew movement and interaction with passengers
When proven and available at scale, they suggest testing for COVID-19 or immunity passports that could also be included as appropriate biosecurity measures.
However, IATA does not recommend restricting the use of the ‘middle seat’ to create social distancing while onboard aircraft. Even with the middle seat open, there would be less than the recommended 1m-2m (6′ in the U.S.), so it would be ineffective as a form of social distancing.
“We need a vaccine, an immunity passport or an effective COVID-19 test that can be administered at scale. Work on all of these is promising. But none will be realized before we will need to re-start the industry. That’s why we must be ready with a series of proven measures, the combination of which will reduce the already low risk of inflight transmission. And we must be careful not to hard-wire any solution so we can be quick in adopting more efficient measures as they will undoubtedly become available,” said de Juniac.
Planes have to be an average of 77% full in order to break even. Keeping the middle seat open would only allow them to be an average of 62% full, at best. The IATA also suggested in the press release that economic impact of keeping the middle seat open would cause airfares to go up by 33% and 58% just to break even.
“Airlines are fighting for their survival. Eliminating the middle seat will raise costs. If that can be offset that with higher fares, the era of affordable travel will come to an end. On the other hand, if airlines can’t recoup the costs in higher fares, airlines will go bust. Neither is a good option when the world will need strong connectivity to help kick-start the recovery from COVID-19’s economic devastation,” said de Juniac.
#stayhealthy #staysafe #washyourhands
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary