New international rules for air travel approved: what passengers need to know
Empty seats between passengers could cause a 58% rise in ticket prices. At the meeting.
It seems that the global airline community has finally approved the basic safety rules that will be implemented in the near future for the safety of passengers during the pandemic.
The heated discussion about whether to leave one seat free between two passengers came to an end - a single decision was made for the whole world.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) endorsed wearing masks on board but did not support the idea of blocking the seat between passengers
This step was previously discussed as one of the options for achieving social distance on board in order to reduce the risk of coronavirus infection.
Earlier, such an idea was supported by Wizz Air CEO Joseph Varadi. The low-coster thus planned to fill its sides by two-thirds to increase the distance between passengers.
On the subject: Pandemic Travel: What You Need to Know for US Air Travel
Ryanair CEO Michael O'Leary called the idea “bullshit” and said it would do more harm than good.
Studies show that the risk of coronavirus transmission by plane is minimal. And wearing masks by passengers and crew will reduce it to almost zero, but at the same time it will not affect the change in prices for airline tickets.
“Passenger and crew safety comes first. The aviation industry is working with national governments to resume flights. We must find a solution that will give confidence to passengers and leave unchanged the availability of air travel. One without the other will not bring long-term benefits, ”said the head of IATA Alexander de Juniak.
Interestingly, most recently Juniak himself supported the idea of locking the seat between passengers.
Current recommendations of the International Air Transport Association
In addition to wearing masks, the association proposed:
- organize temperature screening of passengers and airport workers
- minimize contact between passengers and crew during boarding and alighting
- restrict the movement of the aircraft during the flight
- carry out thorough interior cleaning more often
- simplify the feeding of passengers to limit the interaction of people on board
Also, temporary tests for coronavirus and antibodies will be organized as temporary measures. But only if this procedure is already approved in the world everywhere.
It’s not easy to get coronavirus on an airplane
An unofficial check by the IATA Association of the 18 largest airlines in January-March 2020 revealed only three possible coronavirus infections of crew members from passengers. In four other cases, transmission of the virus from the pilot to the pilot was recorded, which could occur both during the flight and outside the aircraft cabin. Confirmed situations of infection of the passenger by another passenger were not identified.
A more detailed tracking of the contacts of 1100 passengers with confirmed infected after the flight was also conducted. No transmission of the virus to passengers was detected, although 100 thousand passengers can be considered contact persons. Only two possible cases of infection in this way were identified among crew members.
These statistics are immediately explained by several convincing arguments:
- during the flight, passengers are practically not facing each other
- the seats in front of each passenger are a barrier to transmission of the virus by drip
In addition, the possibility of infection is leveled by the fact that the air flow in the cabin passes from top to bottom, that is, it does not contribute to the dispersion of drops that may contain virus particles. It is also known that high-performance HEPA filters perfectly clean the air in modern aircraft.
Moreover, even if the seats between the passengers remain free, this does not guarantee that a sufficient distance is maintained. Most countries call the ideal distance of 1-2 m, and the average seat width is only 50 cm.
No one will fly at a loss
Blocking 30% of the seats could fundamentally change the economy of airlines, reducing the aircraft load factor to 62%. This is much lower than the average breakeven load ratio of aircraft - 77%.
An idea with a free seat would have made tickets more expensive. According to IATA estimates, the ticket price could rise by at least 33% - by a maximum of 58% depending on the region. And this is just to ensure that air carriers go to zero.
“Airlines are fighting for survival. Locking the intermediate seat will increase costs. If they are offset by higher fares for flights - the era of affordable travel will end. On the other hand, if airlines fail to recoup their costs by raising tariffs, they will go bankrupt. None of these options is acceptable, ”said Alexander de Juniak.
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