U.S. airlines want you to Fly Healthy and Fly Smart. Everyone can work together to protect each other.
The safety and well-being of all travelers is our top priority. Airlines have implemented a robust, multi-layered strategy which can effectively reduce the risk of exposure to COVID-19 during air travel – this strategy is aligned with the findings from researchers at Harvard University.
Faculty at Harvard have issued a new study revealing that the multiple layers of protection against COVID-19 make being on an airplane as safe if not safer than other routine activities, such as grocery shopping or going to a restaurant.
The research found that there is a very low risk of virus transmission on airplanes. That’s because there are several layers of mitigation including hospital-grade air filtration and ventilation, mask requirements, significant disinfection, boarding and deplaning practices, and health forms that travelers complete prior to flights.
Researchers at the Harvard Aviation Public Health Initiative have found that the use of masks in combination with diligent cleaning protocols and advanced ventilation and filtration systems on aircraft offer “significant protection against COVID-19 during air travel.”
Researchers also examined the “curb-to-curb” travel experience and confirmed that this multi-layered approach “significantly mitigates risks” in airport settings. Following an assessment of surveyed 25 airports of various sizes, researchers identified best practices to reduce risks of transmission in the airport environment, including:
The report concludes that airports have been proactive in implementing multiple layers of measures to mitigate the risk of COVID-19 transmission, including face covering requirements, physical distancing, enhanced disinfection processes, enhanced ventilation and deployment of touchless technologies.
U.S. airlines require all passengers and customer-facing employees to wear a face covering over their nose and mouth throughout the journey — check-in, boarding, in-flight and deplaning.
Yes, U.S. airlines require all passengers and passenger-facing employees to wear facial coverings. Travelers on U.S. airlines can expect carriers to strictly enforce their face-covering policies and determining appropriate consequences for passengers found in noncompliance.
Passengers are encouraged to bring their own face coverings, but many U.S. airlines offer free face coverings for passengers that need them. We encourage travelers to check with their carrier before heading to the airport.
Travelers are expected to wear their face coverings throughout the journey. However, it is permissible to remove your face covering at times when it is necessary, such as when eating or drinking.
U.S. airlines are transforming the check-in process to reduce touchpoints for passengers. Passengers are encouraged to check-in on their airline's website or smartphone application so they can proceed straight to TSA when arriving at the airport.
For passengers who need to check-in when they arrive, U.S. airlines are sanitizing counters, kiosks and gate areas more frequently. U.S. airlines' enhanced cleaning protocols meet or exceed CDC disinfection guidelines to stop the spread of COVID-19.
U.S. airlines have also implemented temporary health acknowledgment policies and procedures for passenger travel as an additional level of protection during the pandemic. Passengers can expect to acknowledge compliance in three primary areas:
Researchers at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health concluded that the ventilation on airplanes is so good that it reduces the possibility of exposure to COVID-19 to a point so low that it “effectively counters the proximity travelers are subject to during flights.”
All A4A members have aircraft equipped with high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters, which generate air as clean as an intensive care unit. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has said, “Because of how air circulates and is filtered on airplanes, most viruses and other germs do not spread easily on flights.”
“[HEPA filters] block particulates like the COVID, but more generally, viruses, microbes, at 99.9 percent, at least. Even if you sneeze, the air around you is renewed every two to three minutes. Within a minute, there’s nothing left around you.”
— Airbus EVP for Engineering Jean-Brice Dumont
“Cabin air flows primarily from ceiling to floor in a circular pattern and leaves through the floor grilles near the same seat row where it enters. This helps minimize front-to-back air movement and helps to limit the potential spread of contaminants.”
In addition, carriers have implemented a range of policies — including back-to-front boarding and adjusting food and beverage services – to allow for fewer touchpoints. Travelers are encouraged to check with their carrier for additional details regarding onboard policies.
U.S. airlines are setting an industry standard for cleanliness and disinfection. Before boarding, passengers can expect carriers to sanitize frequent customer touchpoints, including seat cushions, seatbelt buckles, and tray tables. Lavatories are subject to routine cleaning and systematically disinfected between flights.
U.S. airlines have implemented intensive cleaning protocols, in some cases to include electrostatic cleaning and fogging procedures. Our members use EPA-approved and CDC-recommended disinfection and cleaning protocols to provide a key layer of protection against the spread of viruses and bacteria inflight.
“The ventilation system requirements for airplanes meet the levels recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for use with covid-19 patients in airborne infection isolation rooms.”
“Because of how air circulates and is filtered on airplanes, most viruses and other germs do not spread easily on flights.”
“[HEPA filters] block particulates like the COVID, but more generally, viruses, microbes, at 99.9 percent, at least. Even if you sneeze, the air around you is renewed every two to three minutes. Within a minute, there’s nothing left around you ... The fact that you’re seated for a couple of hours next to somebody doesn’t represent a higher risk than being in another area where you will be close to people for a given period of times like shops, but there the air doesn’t move much.”
When proceeding through a Transportation Security Administration (TSA) checkpoint, passengers will notice numerous adjustments TSA has made to protect the health and safety of the traveling public.