Two new studies indicate COVID-19 can spread on long airline flights, promote distancing

Two new studies published in a scientific journal raise questions about whether transmission of the coronavirus on lengthy commercial airline flights might be more common than earlier thought.

One looked at two passengers and two flight attendants on the same 15-hour flight from Boston to Hong Kongwho later tested positive for COVID-19. It was found that the virus’ genetic sequence in all four was identical, which the study said “strongly suggests that the virus can be transmitted during air travel.”

The other study examined a 10-hour flight from London to Hanoi, Vietnam, in which 16 aboard were found to have the virus, 12 of whom were seated in business class within two seats or rows of the only symptomatic person. “Seating proximity was strongly associated with increased infection risk,” the study concluded.

The studies, both published in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases, are significant because travelers have slowly been returning to the air as more has become known about how to avoid contracting COVID-19. Both involve flights that occurred in March and they don’t spell out whether passengers were wearing masks.

Is it safe to fly? Precautions to take when flying during the coronavirus pandemic

Airlines are now requiring all passengers and crew aboard flights wear masks. Also, many airlines have been flying their planes at reduced capacity, blocking off middle seats in order to afford more distance between passengers.

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