Breathe easy when you fly
As limited air travel is permitted, travellers are sure to have some questions around the safety of being in a confined space with fellow travellers. IATA guidelines suggest that the risk on airplanes is probably lower than in many confined spaces because modern airplanes have cabin air filtration systems equipped with HEPA filters.
What is a HEPA filter? It is a High-Efficiency Particulate Air filter which can remove exceedingly small particles such as bacteria and viruses from the air. Particles in the range of 0.1 to 0.3 micron are filtered out with an efficiency level of 99.995%. HEPA filters have similar performance to those used to keep the air clean in hospital operating rooms and industrial clean rooms.
Are all commercial aircraft fitted with HEPA filters? The cabin air system in most modern, large, commercial aircraft is designed to operate by delivering approximately 50% outside air and 50% filtered recirculated air. Cabin air circulation is continuous and air is always flowing into and out of the cabin providing the equivalent to 20 to 30 air changes per hour.
What precautions can I take? The range of simple measures advised by WHO are effective even for passengers on a flight: careful hand-washing on a regular basis or at least hand sanitize, avoid contact with other people, covering coughs and sneezes (and then hand-washing), avoid touching your face, and do not travel if you are feeling unwell.