Nearly every airline allows mid-seat passengers on flights, although a new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that blocking mid-seats reduces passenger exposure. Viruses, including the virus that causes COVID-19.
A lab-based study predicts that leaving the middle seat empty will reduce passengers on a flight by 23% to 57% of exposure to surviving virus particles, as reported by the CDC fourth issue.
In recent weeks, the number of people traveling by air has increased significantly, to the highest level since the pandemic broke out in the US Recently, CDC New travel guide release for those who are vaccinated, although the agency declines a travel recommendation at this time. The CDC continues to recommend that travel is not recommended for anyone who has not received a full COVID-19 injection.
Passengers who are physically distant, including through policies such as space in the middle seat, can reduce the risk of exposure to SARS-COV-2.
It remains unclear to what extent reducing exposure actually reduces the risk of transmission, the CDC adds.
“The physical distance from passengers on board, including through policies such as leaving the middle seat empty, can help reduce the risk of exposure to SARS-COV-2,” the report notes.
The study evaluated only aerosol propagation, the airborne particles that the CDC had previously stated to play a role in COVID-19 release, and it did not consider the role that other particles could play. spread the virus.
These other particles include droplets, larger than aerosols and air bubbles, pathogens found on surfaces that are not thought to be the common way SARS-COV-2 spreads.
Notably, research did not look at the effectiveness of masking in combating the spread of COVID-19 on flights. The CDC’s new analysis is based on experiments carried out for a separate study in 2017, before masking became commonplace.
The role of the mask on the flight
In January, CDC issue an order ask travelers to wear a mask during their travels, including on board flights, when boarding or disembarking and while waiting at the airport.
The effects of masking are also not considered in the current aerosol analysis because the mask is more effective at reducing fomite and droplet exposure than the bottle’s exposure, the new CDC study says. spray ”.
The public health agency further notes that other research indicates that “wearing a mask does not seem to eliminate all air exposure to infectious droplets and aerosols and supports the importance of multi-component prevention strategies as a good practice ”.
The airlines approach the middle seat in a different way
Currently, most airlines operating in the United States do not have a policy that prohibits passengers from booking mid seats on flights. Delta airlines
There is such a policy, but announced earlier this month that it will expire in May, a month earlier than previously announced.
has since abandoned them.
Some airlines have chosen not to block certain seats, including United, Allegiant, Spirit and Sun Country.
There are policies to reduce overall occupancy on flights without removing the middle seat, but generally those policies have been allowed to expire as well.
and Sun Country.
“During the COVID-19 pandemic, we worked closely with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, our local authorities, and our industry colleagues to ensure we uphold measures. Top safety and health, ”a Sun Country spokesman told MarketWatch. “We are not currently planning to change any of our existing seat policies.”
An Allegiant spokesperson noted that the company “has taken a multilayered approach to our on-board health and safety program”.
Many airlines have introduced MarketWatch to Airlines for America, an industry conglomerate, for comment.
How easily is COVID-19 spread on flights?
For their part, the US Airlines and the International Air Transport Association, another industry body, both point to research showing that the precautions taken by airlines have kept them safe. for tourists in the context of a pandemic.
Those precautions include the requirement to wear masks, improve cleaning procedures, and the requirement that passengers fill out a health certificate prior to their trip.
“Many scientific studies confirm that layers of protection significantly reduce risk and research continues to demonstrate that the risk of transmission on aircraft is very low,” Airlines for the US told MarketWatch.
Reports by the US Department of Transportation Command and the Harvard School of Public Health’s Aviation Public Health Initiative both indicate that wearing masks and air purification systems on trips The flight is remarkable. reduced likelihood virus infection that causes COVID-19 on flight.
The researchers say passengers may be at greater risk if they take off their masks to eat and disease transmission can occur before or after flight.
But these studies also have limitations. The researchers note that passengers may face more risks if they remove their masks to eat or drink, and transmission can also occur before or after flights.
It is not clear how many people became infected with COVID-19 while traveling by plane during the pandemic.
A November report from the International Air Transport Association said there were only 44 confirmed or possible COVID-19 cases associated with a flight since the beginning of 2020. At that time, more than 1 billion people were on the motorbike. fly. A spokesperson for the organization said they were looking at the new CDC study.
Flight exposure may be more common than most Americans realize. So far, the US government has not released data on how many flights with a single passenger then test positive for COVID-19. But the Canadian government has released that information, tracking more than 200 domestic and international flights with confirmed COVID-19 cases.