Be reassured that the risk of contracting COVID-19 on board a flight is very low.

There have been millions of flights since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak resulting in less than 50 confirmed cases of transmission in-flight.

There are several reasons why this is the case:

  • Seating position - Most of the time on board, you are seated facing forward rather than facing another person. This makes a big difference in terms of the chance of breathing in someone else’s expelled breath.
  • Seat backs - A further barrier to COVID-19 spread is that high seatbacks act as a solid barrier.
  • High airflow rate  - Research has shown that the airflow in an aircraft (from ceiling to floor) is less conductive to droplet spread than other similar environments or modes of transport.  
  • Air exchange - Modern jet aircraft deliver high airflow and replacement rates, combined with hospital-grade High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters that are 99.9+% effective at removing viruses, bacteria and fungi. Cabin air is exchanged every 2-3 minutes.

Unlike other modes of transport, the aircraft cabin environment makes the transmission of viruses difficult and we have seen a low occurrence of onboard transmission.

Why is sitting next to someone on a plane low risk?

It's unlikely an infected passenger will even get to sit next to you
Government health screening and departure biosafety measures minimize this

Virus-carrying droplets are unlikely to reach you:

(2) Cabin air flows downwards and is fully renewed with fresh air every 2-3 minutes
(3) Personal overhead ventilation can strengthen airflow downward 
(4) All passengers face forwards, not at each other

Masks are a proven and effective barrier

(5) They should be worn throughout the travel process







Recent Studies

We are aware of the specific incidents on the studied flights (London to Hanoi and Boston to Hong Kong). These two flights took place in March 2020, before face masks on flights became a requirement, and before a global framework was agreed and implemented.

Since the beginning of 2020, 1.2 billion passengers have traveled while there have been fewer than 100 documented cases of COVID-19 reported in which transmission is thought to have been associated with a flight journey (inclusive of confirmed, probably and potential cases). That’s one case for every 27 million travelers.

Read full statement: IATA Comment on Studies Regarding Onboard Transmission of COVID-19.