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Airplane Air Quality and Coronavirus – What You Need to Know

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A lot of travelers have concerns about the quality of the air in the cabin on an airplane, but have no fear! Most airplanes flying today are equipped with True High-Efficiency Particle Filters (True HEPA) or High-Efficiency Particle Filters (HEPA). These systems filter the cabin air and mix it with fresh air from outside.

The HEPA filtration system, on average, refreshes cabin air 20 times per hour, compared with just 12 times per hour in an office building. According to IATA, the International Air Transport Association, “HEPA filters are effective at capturing greater than 99 percent of the airborne microbes in the air. Filtered, recirculated air provides higher cabin humidity levels and lower particulate levels than 100 percent outside air systems.”

HEPA filters catch most airborne particles, meaning their capture standard is pretty high. A HEPA filter’s complete air change is similar to the standard used in hospitals.

Airplane cabins are divided into separate ventilation and temperature sections about every seven rows of seats. This means you share air only with those in your immediate environment and not with those further away from your seat.

Your risk of catching something airborne on a plane is lower than in many other confined spaces because of the filters and air exchange system. Even though popular belief is that the cabin air is “stale” and constantly re-used for the duration of the journey. Airborne viruses, like tuberculosis and measles, and coronavirus, are transmitted by tiny droplet nuclei that can hang in the air for up to five hours. While viruses associated with the common cold and upper respiratory track infections tend to be larger in size and heavier (consequently falling to the floor rather quickly), these particles linger. Which is where your vent comes in.

By using the vent and turning it on medium or low, you create a downdraft— simultaneously blocking these particles and forcing them to the ground faster.

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Frontier Allows Passengers to Social Distance by Paying for Empty Seats

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I’m not sure how I feel about this: Frontier Airlines has announced a new policy giving travelers the opportunity to socially distance on flights by purchasing the empty middle seat next to them through their “More Room” policy.

The airline says that the new option complements its mandatory face-covering requirement for all passengers and flight crews and is in line with other initiatives that the airline has introduced to achieve high levels of well-being and comfort in flight.

“While we believe the best measure to keep everyone healthy is to require face coverings, for those who want an empty seat next to them for extra peace of mind or simply additional comfort, we are now offering ‘More Room,’” said Frontier CEO Barry Biffle.

Passengers can purchase the More Room seats starting at $39 per passenger, per flight when booking new tickets, managing their booking or at check-in starting on May 8. There will be 18 More Room seats available to passengers, including Stretch seats in the first three rows of the aircraft, which also provide extra legroom and recline.

While I understand airlines will be facing a shortfall from keeping middle seats empty and will also need to re-imagine their revenue model, actually, they’ll have to re-imagine quite a bit until there’s a vaccine, but is now the time to impose even more fees? Is now the time to make us pay to ensure we can comply with social distancing guidelines? If you need to travel, and you want to stay healthy — and you want to fly Frontier, you have to pay.

One of the things I always tried to remember when I was a flight attendant was to never forget that there are various reasons why folks need to fly. Some are traveling for fun, vacation, or a wedding. Some are flying to a funeral or to care for a sick parent. Now imagine having to fly for one of the more serious reasons listed, and only being able to fly Frontier, either for economic reasons, timing or even just because they’re the only airline on that route — and being told, you need to pay $39 more to keep your distance and keep yourself healthy.

How do healthcare workers feel about this? Are they charging patients for social distancing? Are grocery stores charging us for the service of limiting the people in the store to ensure our health?

How do flight attendants feel when they start to see people sitting next to each other although there’s empty seats elsewhere onboard, putting others and themselves at a higher risk, merely because someone couldn’t afford the extra fee?

While I’m always a cheerleader for aviation, this move is just plain stupid.

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