“On 10 transcontinental US flights, we chronicled behaviors and movements of individuals in the economy cabin on single-aisle aircraft. We simulated transmission during flight based on these data,” explained the report.
Through 228 samples taken over the ten flights, the scientists were able to determine the main cause of pathogen spread being movement in the plane. Those who sat close to cabin movement, such as next to the aisle, were more likely to pick up an illness from a passing passenger or crew member.
In fact, according to the findings, crew members were a much higher risk than other passengers, with the potential to spread illness to up to five different passengers during one flight. A passenger typically only had the potential to infect one or two other passengers.
Interestingly, the researchers also hypothesized that longer flights posed a greater risk of picking up an illness.
“On short-hop flights, the amount of movement may be much less. Conversely, on longer international flights, there will be substantially more movement of passengers and crew, leading to many additional close contacts.”
While further research may be needed, we’re happy to take this advice on board and take the window seat on our next flight. Anything is better than being sandwiched in the middle!