by Jimmy Yates ‘21
As spring break and summer approach, many people are contemplating going on vacation and taking trips they could not take last year due to the pandemic. Airplanes may not seem like a well-ventilated or socially distanced way of traveling, but research shows they aren’t as unsanitary or unsafe as we believed.
Experts say planes are a big factor in the worldwide spread of the virus, as infected passengers can go from city to city. However, passengers on the plane are not at a high risk of contracting the virus directly from other passengers with the safety measures currently in place.
Air quality and ventilation on planes have been improved in recent years and decades. Air enters the cabin from above, moves downward, and out of the cabin, before being filtered again or released into the atmosphere. According to MIT Medical, High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filtration systems on commercial airlines filter out 99.97 percent of virus sized particles. However, this does not rule out the possibility that passengers could inhale particles from nearby passengers before they are filtered out, though masks would reduce this chance even further.
“I feel comfortable as long as everyone on the plane is wearing masks and taking the necessary safety precautions,” said one senior at Sherwood. “I feel like being on an airplane the same as being inside with a lot of people inside at a restaurant.” Planning to travel by plane for a college visit, she stated she believes passengers “should get tested before and after they fly and quarantine until they get a negative test result” to minimize the risk of flying as a carrier and transmitting the virus to others.
The CDC has stated that fully vaccinated people can gather inside without masks with others that have been fully vaccinated but should still wear masks and take safety precautions around strangers and people who have not been vaccinated. Vaccines lower one’s risk of developing severe symptoms of Covid-19, but people can still be carriers and transmit the virus to others when fully vaccinated.
“I personally feel comfortable traveling by airplane now but only because I have been vaccinated,” said technology education teacher Brendan Lees. “However, I think airlines are doing a good job keeping people safe and I would fly for a family emergency even if I wasn’t vaccinated.” Lees said it’s important to also “follow all safety rules when traveling, because even though I have been vaccinated I could still spread the virus to others and negatively affect them.”
“I would prefer to drive if I can just to stay safe,” said junior Nicole Graham. “But I might be traveling on a plane for a couple college visits. I think that if you do your research and take the proper safety precautions, it is okay to travel.” Experts agree with Graham that it is important to research travel destinations before stepping on a plane. To see where it is safe and unsafe to travel right now, visit this cdc page.
The safety and trust of air travel will likely affect the world-wide economic recovery from the pandemic as many countries’ tourist and travel industries will be revived.