Flying safer than grocery shopping? Harvard says YES.

Is it safe to fly? There is an inherent risk by participating in any activity during the current pandemic. yet according to an analysis by Harvard University’s Aviation Public Health Initiative, the risk of Covid-19 transmission on airplanes is lower than the transmission risk in other common settings such as grocery stores and indoor restaurants.

Through the assessment of existing research on Covid-19 as it applies to air travel, and by examining modelings of aircraft transmission that have been undertaken by governments and the aviation industry, the Harvard initiative found flying to be safer than we think.

“Our teams found that, together with their high-performing ventilation systems, the actions that airlines put in place, including mandatory use of masks, significantly reduce the risk of viral transmission aboard an airplane,” said the initiative’s co-director, Leonard Marcus.

In a report released earlier this week, the team emphasized that along with the hospital-grade filters on most commercial aircraft, layered measures including masks, social distancing during boarding and health declarations are key to making flying safe. The researchers also recommended that airlines make sure proper ventilation is maintained throughout the boarding and deplaning process and that airlines operate supplemental, ground-based ventilations systems.

Marcus also cautioned that an individual’s decision to engage in flying or other activities must be balanced by personal health considerations.

The Harvard computer modeling was in line with another recent study by the Defense Department that used mannequins outfitted with surgical masks and particle detection equipment on Boeing 767 and 777 jets. It found little risk of transmission thanks to the masks and efficient air ventilation.

Of course, this is not quite a free pass. Harvard’s School of Public Health says we all have the responsibility to mitigate and manage the risks. Airlines and passengers can do this by adopting a layered approach. This includes everyone wearing face masks, the industry to properly clean planes, people practicing social distancing protocols, and effective health screening procedures by travelers and providers.

Various airlines are offering flight deals this holiday season. With many of us missing our extended family, a trip home may call to our hearts, but our minds may feel nervous. The study points out that Harvard’s researchers stand behind mask use, and view masks as a critical part of keeping travelers healthy. The group also credited the role of disinfection and passengers’ self-screening for Covid-19 symptoms as added safety measures protecting flyers this holiday season.

AAA Travel was recently invited to learn more about the procedures Delta has in place. In addition to that behind the scenes access, one AAA Travel advisor recently took a Delta flight to Mexico. Both our tour, and our advisor’s first-hand experience indicate that the Harvard study may be spot on. As you plan your return to travel, you may have questions. Our team of AAA Travel advisors is here to help you find safe, yet enjoyable travel accommodations. To speak with your advisor, call 1-800-222-7448.