ST. LOUIS (KTVI) — A new Harvard study has found you’re more at risk of getting COVID-19 by going to the grocery store than by getting on an airplane. “You’re as safe on an airplane as you are going to the grocery store or eating in a restaurant,” said Rebecca Spicer, senior VP of Communications for Airlines for Americans.
The study, from the industry-funded Aviation Public Health Initiative, comes as airlines are trying to make travelers comfortable with boarding airplanes for the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday. This typically busy travel time will be critical for U.S. airlines.
Although the airline industry is gradually seeing more passengers flying, total traffic is about 40% lower compared to 2019, according to the Transportation Security Administration.
Spicer explained that layers of protection such as mandatory mask-wearing, high-grade cleaning onboard planes and hospital-grade air filtration make airplanes safer.
“When you get on an airplane, the air flows right above you down to your feet, then it gets filtered out at the floor level, which is significant because science is now telling us that because of that, the air never goes from passenger to passenger,” Spicer said. “It goes straight down.”
She added that once on the floor, it goes into high-grade HEPA filters.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said, “Most viruses and other germs do not spread easily on flights because of how air circulates and is filtered on airplanes.”
On Oct. 15, the Defense Department released a study saying continuous mask use while flying could reduce the spread of the coronavirus because of how air is filtered and circulated on planes, though the study didn’t account for others ways it could be spread, such as coughing, according to CNN.
Spicer said the longer the pandemic continues, the more cuts airlines will have to make.
As of this month, airline passenger volume is down 64% and revenue is down 80% as airlines spend more than $5 million per month. Airlines received a government bailout that ran out Sept. 30. Tens of thousands of employees were furloughed and flights were reduced.
Spicer said airlines are hopeful that Washington will extend the payroll support program that ran out in September.