How risky is it to fly?
According to one airline executive, there’s only a very small chance of catching COVID-19 while on an airplane, as long as certain precautions are taken. This quote comes as airlines are hoping to boost consumer confidence in flying.
JetBlue Airways president Joanna Geraghty made the comments about the risks of catching COVID-19 at the Skift Global Forum, Bloomberg reports. The forum, which was held online this year due to the pandemic, is a conference focused on the travel industry. Not surprisingly, the coronavirus pandemic and its impact on the airline industry was often the topic of conversation.
According to Bloomberg, Geraghty referenced a study by Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health at the conference. She explained that, based on the study’s research, the risk of catching COVID-19 on an aircraft is less than 1%, as long as passengers and crew members wear masks and HEPA air filtration systems are used.
The Harvard study is reportedly still ongoing, however.
Geraghty also discussed the impact the pandemic has had on business travel compared to its impact on leisure travel.
“About 80 percent of JetBlue’s passengers are leisure travelers, a ratio that has stood it in good stead during the pandemic, as business travel has all but collapsed,” she said. “Leisure and friend- and family-visit travel have fueled the U.S. airline industry’s nascent recovery. Airlines, such as American, United and Delta, which staked much of their revenue on high-dollar business travelers, have begun to pivot to capture more leisure traffic. JetBlue has added more than 30 routes in recent weeks.”
Previous studies have shown conflicting results for the risk of infection COVID-19 poses on airplanes. In late August, a group of German researchers determined that the chances of being infected by the virus on a flight were small, although still possible. However, another study determined that the risk of catching COVID-19 on longer flights "is real and has the potential to cause COVID-19 clusters of substantial size." Neither study mentioned the impact of using masks and air filtration systems.