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It May Not be Safe to Fly Yet

Tracy Davenport Tracy Davenport
8th June 2020
It May Not be Safe to Fly Yet
Airlines are started to reduce COVID-19-based travel restrictions (Getty Images)

The Claim

It is safe to fly despite the threat of COVID-19.

Emerging story

Users on Twitter posted questioning if it is safe to fly yet.

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Misbar’s Analysis

Our investigation shows that flying is full of risk, just by virtue of a traveler being around people and touching surfaces while the coronavirus is still present. According to CNN, “The best way to control exposure is to eliminate the hazard. Since we cannot eliminate the new coronavirus, ask yourself if you can eliminate the trip.” 

Much of the danger of flying right now comes from things you cannot control like having space around you on the plane: "The primary concern with flying – or traveling by bus or train – is sitting within six feet of an infected person.” However, there may be ample space to practice social distancing. As of May 8, 2020, United Airlines announced 85% of its flights are less than half full. This is typical in the industry for the time being. American Airlines is running about 35% load factor according to Skift. Southwest is predicted to operate between 30% to 35% of capacity in May. In the hopes that planes do get back to capacity, most major airlines such as Southwest and Delta have already committed to leaving the middle seat open on all flights at least through July. Many airlines are also allowing you to change to a less crowded flight without a fee. 

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According to the article, “a secondary concern is contact with contaminated surfaces.” The article suggests that you should “check out your airline to see if their engineering controls are designed to isolate hazards.” The article also recommends bringing bleach wipes on the plane. Most airlines are already using the latest technology. For example, Southwest Airlines is applying an electrostatic disinfectant and an anti-microbial spray on every surface of the aircraft killing viruses and acting as a shield for 30 days. Between every flight, a broad-spectrum disinfectant is used to clean tray tables, armrests, and any other surface that is touched. Each plane is now being deep cleaned from nose to tail every night. HEPA air filters, which remove 99.97% of airborne particles, are onboard all aircraft. The article suggests you should wear a mask if you must fly. Face coverings are already required for all passengers on most of the major airlines. 

Misbar's investigation suggests that flying is not a safe option now due to the coronavirus and disease experts would not feel safe on a plane. Flying will involve sitting shoulder to shoulder with others. However, between the safeguards already put into place by the airlines with seating separation, high-tech cleaning, and state-of-the-art air filters, and our developing understanding of the virus, flying may be safer now than other travel options. 

Misbar’s Classification


Misbar’s Sources

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