How good is the aircraft cabin air?

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Clean air on-board aircraft
Photo by Hanson Lu on Unsplash

The coronavirus pandemic punched a heavy blow to the air travel industry. Scared of contracting the coronavirus passengers simply stopped flying. A year later since the beginning of the pandemic we know more about the COVID-19 and how to protect against it.

An important protective measure is the installation of the High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters on board most modern aircraft. The air we breath during a flight is now HEPA filtered and it is said to remove 99.993% of bacteria and viruses. However, does the HEPA filters alone are enough to guarantee protection against the coronavirus?

There several factors that make things even safer for us on board?

  1. We seat on the aircraft facing forward. This particular set up limits face-to-face interaction among passengers hence the transmission of the virus.
  2. Seat-backs act like vertical barriers between passengers further limiting the spread of the virus.
  3. The presence of constant air flow from the ceiling towards the floor of the cabin reduces significantly the risk of forward and backward virus transmission.

These three factors lower the risk of transmission in the cabin environment significantly.

The use of HEPA filters makes the air on board very clean. Hospital operation rooms use HEPA filters, too.

Concerning to passengers is how much recycled air they breath and how much fresh air from outside comes in. It’s a misunderstanding by most passengers that once the plain lifts off the air inside the cabin stays the same trough the flight.

By design the pressurized air in the cabin escapes through the fuselage all the time. Therefore outside air is constantly pumped in. Overall, cabin air refreshes 20 to 30 times per hour which is way more then the air refreshing in commercial buildings.

This is how clean the air is inside an aircraft.

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Ian Powers is a travel blogger and nature enthusiast. Ian has over 20 years of aviation travel experience.

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