The International Air Transport Association (IATA) on May 5 said that it does not support mandating social distancing measures that would leave ‘middle seats’ empty in flights. The IATA on Tuesday said it is in favour of the wearing of face coverings for passengers and masks for the crew while onboard aircraft but does not recommend airlines to leave 'middle seats' empty as part of the social distancing measures, claiming that evidence suggests that the risk of transmission onboard aircraft is low.
"The safety of passengers and crew is paramount. The aviation industry is working with governments to re-start flying when this can be done safely. Evidence suggests that the risk of transmission onboard aircraft is low. And we will take measures, such as the wearing of face coverings by passengers and masks by the crew, to add extra layers of protection. We must arrive at a solution that gives passengers the confidence to fly and keeps the cost of flying affordable. One without the other will have no lasting benefit," said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s Director General and CEO.
IATA also recommended measures to reduce the already low risk of onboard transmission, including temperature screening of passengers, airport workers, and travelers, boarding and deplaning processes that reduce contact with other passengers or crew, limiting movement within the cabin during flight, more frequent and deeper cabin cleaning and simplified catering procedures that lower crew movement and interaction with passengers. "When proven and available at scale, testing for COVID-19 or immunity passports could also be included as temporary biosecurity measures," IATA added.
IATA also highlighted why COVID-19 transmission onboard aircraft is relatively lower than other public transport. The international body said passengers face forward with limited face-to-face interactions while travelling on a plane. It said seats provide a barrier to transmission forward to aft in the cabin adding that High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters on modern aircraft clean cabin air to operating theatre quality, further assisted by high levels of fresh air circulation also help reduce the risk of transmission.
(Image Credit: AP)