I’ve mentioned the benefits of airline ventilation systems in previous posts. Here is a good summary of the way HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) systems work on commercial airliners.

IMG_5302 (2)
This chart was displayed at the Japan Airlines Sakura Lounge in Bangkok, Thailand

All mainline Boeing and Airbus airliners and many regional and commuter jets are equipped with HEPA systems that remove at least 99.7% of SARS-CoV-2 airborne particles. The entire volume of cabin air is recirculated every two to three minutes. As far as cleaning the air, airline HEPA filters are as efficient as those used in hospital operating rooms. HEPA ventilation systems make airplane cabin air extremely safe to breathe.

On the other hand, risk remains. Cabin humidity is very low. The lack of moisture dries out mucous membranes making them less able to trap bacteria and viruses. Also, airborne virus can settle on surfaces and be transferred to the mouth, nose and eyes through touch. Accordingly, it is important to follow recommendations for mask wearing (N95 or KN95 masks are best), washing hands, and physical distancing when possible especially while boarding and disembarking when the aircraft ventilation system is not operating.

Even though flying on a plane equipped with a HEPA system is probably safer than going to work, those who avoid air travel during the pandemic are certainly entitled to set their own standards for their personal safety. Have you flown during Covid or avoided it for safety reasons? How was the experience?