In these uncertain times it’s good to look at current evidence to guide how we behave when flying. So what’s the evidence around flying and Covid?
There is definite evidence of transmission of Covid 19 on flights, however the risk may not be as high as initially feared.
There is equal evidence that transmission can happen before getting on a plane as well as afterwards, in fact the risk may be higher than on the plane itself, as airplanes use special HEPA filters which according to the literature, remove 99.9% of pathogens from circulating air every 2-3 minutes.
There is also increasing evidence that strict mask wearing can reduce transmission, even when positive cases are on the flight. This may also be as a result of stringent airline hygiene practices introduced during the pandemic. Masks are currently mandatory on all international and national flights entering WA and may also be mandatory whilst in some airports – check ahead.
Risks at destination: This varies depending on state and country. See smartraveller.gov.au for more information
Based on current thinking the following tips may help;
• As always follow strict hygiene measures
• Washing hands regularly or using alcohol based hand gels
• Practice physical distancing as much as possible
• Use contactless apps as much as possible
• Wear a mask to and from the airport as well as during the flight and after arrival. This can be a simple surgical mask but must fit well. Try and wear at all times and minimise touching your face or the front of the mask. For flights longer than 6 hours consider changing the mask during the flight. Aim not to touch the mask when doing this.
• Note some airlines may provide masks and some may not. Best to take your own.
• Masks are not necessary in the following situations;
o for brief periods while eating, drinking, or taking medication;
o if unconscious, incapacitated, unable to be awakened, or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance
o when necessary to temporarily remove the mask to verify one’s identity such as during Transportation Security Administration screening or when asked to do so by the ticket or gate agent or any law enforcement official
• Business class does not stop transmission from happening
• There have been cases of Covid-19 transmission when sitting in the same row or 2 seats in front or behind a proven case.
• Travellers at higher risk of complications of Covid-19 include older age, comorbidities (Diabetes, Heart & Lung disease, obese, smokers)
Most importantly don’t fly if you are unwell or have any symptoms of Covid 19
(including fever, cough, sore throat, runny nose, loss of sense of smell or taste)