The International Air Transport Association has claimed only 44 Covid cases have been transmitted during a flight – out of 1.2 billion passengers.
The figures translate to one case for every 27 million passengers, or 0.0000036%.
“The risk of a passenger contracting COVID-19 while onboard appears very low,” IATA Medical Advisor Dr David Powell said.
IATA admitted there was no precise way to establish the exact number of aircraft transmissions.
But it said its ‘outreach to airlines and public health authorities combined with a thorough review of available literature’ has not suggested any widespread onboard transmission.
“We recognise that this may be an underestimate but even if 90% of the cases were un-reported, it would be one case for every 2.7 million travellers,” Dr Powell said. “We think these figures are extremely reassuring.”
Even more encouraging, he added, is that published data occurred before the widespread wearing of face masks on aircraft and in airports.
New insight into why the numbers are so low emerged following research conducted by Airbus, Boeing and Embraer.
All three plane makers claimed aircraft airflow systems control the movement of particles in the cabin, limiting the spread of viruses.
Despite slightly different methodologies, the research claims aircraft airflow systems, specialised filters, the natural barrier of the seatback, the downward flow of air and ‘high rates of air exchange’ reduce the risk of disease transmission inside the cabin.
“The addition of mask-wearing amid pandemic concerns adds a further and significant extra layer of protection, which makes being seated in close proximity in an aircraft cabin safer than most other indoor environments,” IATA concluded.