How safe is the air quality on your plane? Here's everything you need to know
As the coronavirus pandemic hits the world, prompting bans, cancellations, and suspensions, travellers all over are left with worries and confusion.
Many are scrambling to change their plans following warnings not to board long-haul flights, especially if they're considered high-risk. Convention and event cancellations are also happening from coast to coast.
When there is an outbreak like we're facing, it is natural to become leery of hopping on an airplane.
A popular misconception regarding air travel is that one sick person on board can spread the illness to others, as they are sharing the same enclosed environment and breathing the same air.
This is UNTRUE.
It is not entirely wrong to say that when it comes to keeping passengers healthy, not all aircraft are created on an equal footing. So whether you're going on a domestic or overseas trip, there are a few things you need to know about the quality of the air you may be surrounded in on your next flight.
AIR CIRCULATION SYSTEM IN AIRCRAFTS
Many aircrafts have efficient filter systems. With the exception of some smaller or newer aircraft, most aircrafts are fitted with Real High-Efficiency Particle Filters (True HEPA) or High-Efficiency Particle Filters (HEPA).
Such filtration devices trap and recirculate the dust out of the cabin to replace it with fresh air. The higher the mileage a HEPA filter possesses, the more effective it is in tackling passenger load.
A HEPA filter's complete air circulation system is much better than those installed in other forms of transportation and office buildings.
THERE IS BOTH FRESH AIR AND CIRCULATED AIR
The ratio of fresh to recycled air in a plane is 50-50. Some of the recirculated air is dumped overboard while the remainder is pumped out through HEPA air filters along with more than 99 per cent of impurities and other bacterial agents.
Therefore, your chance of catching an airborne disease on a plane is smaller than in other enclosed spaces thanks to the combination of filters and air circulation.
THE CABINS ARE HUMID ENOUGH
We all know that flu viruses thrive at lower humidity levels, where they are both easier to catch and last longer. So dry air is the culprit here.
The use of composite materials in new aircraft cabins allows them to increase humidity thus diminishing the unhealthy dehydrating effect of older airplanes.
Newly-designed airplane cabins are able to maintain humidity at around 25 per cent - an upgrade from earlier values of 20 per cent - because their composite-material fuselages do not rust like those of metal under elevated humidity.
MORE LIGHTING, LESS FATIGUE
Lighting plays both biological and psychological roles in an aircraft. The use of composite materials allows for bigger windows on the fuselage, giving a significant boost to the well-being of flyers.
Together with advanced lighting systems that can replicate the normal cycle of a day - an extremely common method to combat jet lag-windows make people feel less fatigued and help to adjust circadian rhythms. (A circadian rhythm is the 24-hour internal clock running in your body, which alternates between sleepiness and alertness at regular intervals.)
COMFORTABLE AIR PRESSURE
Cabin pressure is something many passengers don't consider except when their ears pop during takeoff and arrival - but it's crucial to air travel. Without it, we wouldn't be able to fly much higher than 10,000 feet.
In order to make air travel more convenient, companies such as Boeing are developing modern aircrafts large enough to sustain low cabin pressure at high altitudes without causing structural loss.
The new aircrafts' cabin pressure simulates an elevation of just 6,000 feet, a 20 per cent reduction over similar aircraft. This has tremendous benefits for the passenger's experience.
Ultimately, the decision to travel is a personal one. There is no right answer, only recommendations that govern our travel today. It is crucial for all travellers to be updated on travel bans.
You must avoid all unnecessary travel and take all precautions in case you have to fly.
For the latest updates on the coronavirus, visit here.
This article was first published in Wego.