Despite the next wave of the pandemic, air travel to many destinations now looks the same as in the old carefree times: the salons are filled to capacity, many passengers are not wearing masks, flight attendants are delivering food...
Airlines cite scientific studies showing that the risk of infection on board is low. Is this really so, Business Insider understands.
At the beginning of the pandemic, there was a lot of talk that air travel would never be the same: it was assumed that in order to reduce the risk of infection, the middle seats in the rows would be blocked, food and drinks would be banned, and even to the toilet, so as not to create lines, it would be possible walk only with the consent of the flight attendant.
All these precautions were forgotten as soon as flights resumed: air carriers were not ready to reduce their capacity and lose profits in order to take care of the health of passengers. In the United States, for example, only one of the four largest carriers, Delta, still keeps the middle seats empty, providing distance. Others fill the cabin to the maximum, citing studies showing that the risk of contracting coronavirus in flight is low, and the level of infection with the virus among flight attendants is lower than among the general population. But not everything in these studies is unambiguous.
For example, a US Department of Defense study showing a "very low" risk of contracting COVID-19, provided passengers wear masks, was sponsored by United Airlines and Boeing and could hardly be considered impartial due to potential conflicts of interest. In addition, some of the details of the conduct of this study make the results not entirely objective. After all, the experiments were carried out on large wide-body aircraft, and not on narrow-body aircraft, which fly on most routes.
In addition, the researchers did not take into account that it is almost unrealistic to remain in a mask for the entire flight: even law-abiding and far from covid-denial passengers can take off the mask to drink water.
In a presentation presented by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) with the participation of Airbus, Boeing and Embraer, it was reported that data analysis showed that only 44 cases of infection were detected on flights with the participation of approximately 1.2 billion travelers, that is, only one of 27.3 million passengers. However, some scientists, whose research was used in this case, refused to participate in the presentation, citing "bad mathematics": since not every of the above 1.2 billion travelers was tested, the number of real cases of infection is unknown, and "the absence evidence is not yet proof of absence".
What's more, some studies show that COVID-19 may well be transmitted by aircraft. One contact-tracing study found a passenger contracted the virus in flight, during which all passengers were wearing N 95 face masks. This passenger took off her mask only twice to eat and go to the toilet. There is also a statistical model developed by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology that shows that while the overall risk of COVID-19 infection in flight is low, filling the middle seat doubles it.