No, The Coronavirus Won’t Spread Through Recirculated Air In A Plane

It has been widely covered: this pandemic has generated a huge amount of fake news, even more than usual. This example about recirculated air is a great one: many believe this myth, but in fact, it’s just simply not true. And with what I’ll show you about one of the comments we saw, hopefully you’ll realize how dangerous fake news is.

Yes, I know, many people don’t care about facts. But here at Flytrippers, we really do.

What’s sad is that even by sharing the facts and actual sources that explain how the coronavirus can’t “recirculate” in airplane air systems (it does NOT), some will stick to believing that… despite the evidence.

In short, it’s quite normal for your first reflex to be to believe that myth: metal tube, air vents… it looks logical enough to think that the air quality is bad at first glance. But it’s still just a myth… and what isn’t normal is to stay stuck on a first impression that is not based on anything factual at all.

Especially as travelers: one of the benefits of exploring our world should be to make us intellectually curious, so we should avoid “fake news” even more than non-travelers! That’s also why we love sharing articles to help you learn random facts about our world!

So here are some facts about air quality on planes.

 

Air Quality In Airplanes

It started with our very popular post about a new seat concept designed for post-coronavirus air travel. Many had strong opinions about the design, as we expected.

 

On the Facebook pages of all the cities we normally spot flight deals from, many commented about very valid concerns about the seat and flying in general.

But a few people commented that whatever happens, the seat won’t change the fact that “the air in plane recirculates and is full of coronavirus anyway” or something along those lines.

That is completely and utterly false.

To be clear, yes of course there will be coronavirus particles in the air around someone infected in a plane and on surfaces, like anywhere else (which is why masks and testing will be the key to air travel in the short-term future, as we’ll cover in our upcoming series of articles about potential changes).

But that’s not what those people are saying: they are saying the particles recirculate during the whole flight and all over the plane. Through the air vents.

Wrong: particles will not “recirculate”.

Here are the facts: plane ventilation systems have HEPA filters that capture 99.95% of particles (coronavirus or others).

You know the absolute best medical masks, the ones frontline healthcare workers wear when treating those with known infections? Those are N95 masks (also called N95 respirators). Not simple mouth coverings or basic masks: the most efficient ones.

That 95 in N95 means 95% of particles are captured.

The plane air vent HEPA filters capture 99.95% (sources below).

HEPA stands for High-Efficiency Particle Filters.

The HEPA air filtration system will make a complete air change every 2 to 4 minutes. The “old” used air exits the plane and new air is constantly entering the plane from the outside through the engine compressors.

At all times, the air quality in planes is better (fewer particles) than what the ventilation systems provide in standard buildings on the ground.

Those are the actual facts.

 

Fake News

I despise fake news personally, so I try to debunk them very fast (to inform travelers—that’s part of our mission) when I see comments like this one on our pages:

 

I knew this was completely false, because I had checked at the beginning of this pandemic. I’m not an expert in air quality, but it’s pretty easy to find someone who is by Googling it and reading reliable sources.

But the worse part is that despite the fact that I debunked it immediately when the misleading comment had no “likes”, and despite the fact a helpful and well-informed reader (I’m sure the majority of our fans are in his group by the way) shared a series of factual sources even more clearly debunking the myth… 16 people still “liked” the “fake news” comment that is just plain not true.

 

Just under the fake news comment, there are actual links RIGHT THERE to debunk it.

That’s truly the absolute scariest thing about fake news. Many people don’t bother to read the whole thing or question what they read. There is a lot of content out there; many just glance over. 

That’s why it’s so important to NOT spread fake news and post false statements in the first place. Too many people will believe it.

So however logical it could seem, the fact is the coronavirus particles won’t “recirculate” in the air on a flight. That’s one less thing to worry about when we’ll be able to get back on planes and explore our beautiful world. We’ll already have border restrictions, entry requirements, higher costs… no need to complicate things with unfounded concerns.

Here are a few sources provided by our reader Simon in Montreal:

 

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Summary

No, the novel coronavirus (or other viruses and bacteria) will not recirculate in the air inside the plane. The HEPA filters in the air quality control system are more efficient than the N95 masks and the air inside a plane has less “recirculated” particles than the air system in average buildings on the ground. Those are the facts.

 

Help us spread the word about our flight deals and travel tips by sharing this article and most importantly bookmark Flytrippers so we can help you navigate the world of low-cost travel!

Featured image: airplane cabin (photo credit: Octav Cado)

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Andrew D'Amours

Andrew is the co-founder of Flytrippers. He is passionate about traveling the world but also, as a former management consultant, about the travel industry itself. He shares his experiences to help you save money on travel. As a very cost-conscious traveler, he loves finding deals and getting free travel thanks to travel rewards points... to help him visit every country in the world (current count: 59/193 Countries, 46/50 US States & 9/10 Canadian Provinces).

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. ron

    But what about the the time between someone with covid coughing on the plane and the time it takes to get into the plane’s filtration system? Or about the time getting through security and boarding? As a recent member of the “senior” age, I fear that I won’t be able to feel secure flying until there is a vaccine.

    1. Andrew D'Amours

      Yes, that is a valid concern, unless everyone is forced to wear a mask onboard, which is not unlikely. But the point is that the air vents is not a concern, it is filtered, unlike what many seem to think 🙂

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