How to protect yourself from coronavirus on a plane

Kristine Tarbert
Senior Lifestyle & Entertainment Producer
Some people still have to travel during this outbreak. Photo: Getty

Australians have been urged to avoid all non-essential travel, particularly internationally, amid the coronavirus outbreak.

As a result of travel bans and restrictions within Australia and in different countries around the world the travel industry has taken a huge hit, with thousands of flights cancelled globally, and airlines doing anything to combat the decrease in demand.

But we know that some people need to travel - whether it’s to get home to family, or part of your job - and may still find themselves having to board a plane. So we’ve rounded up some of the best travel advice to hopefully help you keep safe, and reduce your risk of contracting an illness.

Sit next to a window

Apparently the best place to sit on a plane to avoid contact with potential infectious germs is the window seat.

Researchers at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia found those who were seated in the window in general had less interaction with other passengers – beyond those sitting within two rows of them – which limited their chances of interacting with an infected person, researchers said.

Keep your air vent on

Experts have stressed the coronavirus isn’t something that is spread through the air [it is spread via contaminated droplets spread by coughing or sneezing, that come into contact with hands, surfaces or objects].

The medical advisor of the International Air Transport Association, David Powell, stressed cabin air was purified with surgical-grade filters and as such the risk of catching a serious viral infection on a plane is ‘low’.

“The air supply to a modern airliner is very different from a cinema or an office building,” he told Bloomberg.

“The air is a combination of fresh air and recirculated air, about half each. The recirculated air goes through filters of the exact same type that we use in surgical operating theatres.

“That supplied air is guaranteed to be 99.97 per cent — or better — free of viruses and other particles. So the risk, if there is one, does not come from the supplied air. It comes from other people.”

Best seat on a plane is the window seat. Photo: Getty

Wash your hands

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends washing hands “frequently” with soap and water to “eliminate the virus if it is on your hands”. An alcohol-based sanitiser can also be effective if the hand is not “visibly dirty”.

“Contrary to what people think, the hands are the way that these viruses most efficiently spread,” Dr Powell said, reminding people to wash or sanitise their hands as often as possible.

Check in areas and airport security have been flagged as areas higher in germs, along with airplane bathrooms.

Extra tips for germ-free travel

In a piece for Business Insider a frequent traveller shared a few more tips for staying germ-free on a flight:

  • check in online

  • don’t eat at the airport food court

  • use wipes to clean everything

  • keep distance from other travellers

Paul Scurrah, CEO and Managing Director of Virgin Australia Group, tried to reassure travellers this week, sending out a message to Velocity Frequent Flyer members.

“We uphold the highest standards when it comes to cleaning our aircraft and have stringent processes in place,” the message read.

“Our aircraft are cleaned at a minimum every 24 hours, which includes the use of an antibacterial, antimicrobial cleaning product that reduces the risk of harmful viruses, moulds, fungus, algae and any other possible harmful pathogenic bacteria.

“Our aircraft are also fitted with High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters, which perform similarly to those used to keep the air clean in hospital operating rooms. This means the air quality on the aircraft is essentially sterile and particle-free.”

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