Airlines Lying About Coronavirus Risk – Again; Similar False Claims Made About Smoke Particles On Flights
Airlines Downplaying Coronavirus Risk
WASHINGTON, D.C. (July 28, 2020) - Airlines are increasingly touting what they call their superb ventilation system and HEPA filters in an effort to convince passengers that it is safe to fly despite coronavirus particles released into the air by other passengers, but they made virtually the same false claims about tobacco smoke particles back in the days when smoking was permitted aboard commercial flights, notes public interest law professor John Banzhaf.
At the end of last week, Bruce Greenwald, the founding director of the Heilbrunn Center for Graham and Dodd Investing at Columbia Business School, sat down for a Fireside Chat with Li Lu, the founder and chairman of Himalaya Capital as part of the 13th Columbia China Business Conference. The chat spanned many different topics, Read More
But even once smoking was restricted to small smoking sections, and the percentage of smokers shrank, passengers in the nonsmoking section most distant from a smoker would know the minute he lit up because, despite the "superb" ventilation system and "hospital style" high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters, the tiny particles of tobacco smoke would drift throughout the airplane, says Banzhaf, whose legal actions first required airlines to provide no-smoking sections, and eventually led to a ban on smoking on all flights.
Obviously airline ventilation systems did not protect passengers from inhaling drifting particles of smoke, something which was undeniably clear to any passenger with a sense of smell. If the coronavirus had an odor, few would fly, because they would have the same irrefutable proof that - as with tobacco smoke particles - passengers are being exposed to deadly airborne particles, he argues.
Many media reports, and videos of actual flights, show that enforcement of airline requests that passengers wear masks is spotty to non-existent. The same occurred years earlier with regard to smoking when federal law restricted or later prohibited smoking aboard flights, because airlines were reluctant to enforce the requirements upon passengers who objected.
If airlines didn't even enforce a requirement imposed by federal law, we certainly can't expect them to do so - in effect, bet our lives on it - when there are no federal rules, much less laws, requiring masks on planes, suggests Banzhaf.
Removing Masks In The Airline Restrooms
Moreover, he notes, passengers are of course permitted to remove their masks while drinking or eating (even food they brought on board where the airline doesn't serve any), and there is no way to insure that passengers do not remove their masks in the restrooms, thereby potentially infecting all subsequent restroom users with a deadly virus which can linger in the air for hours according to recent research findings.
Indeed, a new study shows that more than 10% of adults do not even wash their hands after using a restroom. So, in addition to potentially infecting other passengers with germs when they return to their seats, this irresponsible behavior suggests that they are even less likely than other passengers to wear masks when in an airplane restroom, suggests Banzhaf.
Professor Banzhaf also notes that, despite claims about how often the ventilation system exchanges the air, airlines in the past would frequently reduce the amount of fresh air introduced into the cabin - something the passengers could not readily detect, and often without even telling the flight attendants - because it saved them money, since there is an added cost of bringing in fresh air from the outside.
Thus, says Banzhaf, there is no guarantee that the same substantial reduction in the quality of air in the cabin - and in passenger safety and health - will not occur now, especially when major carriers are desperate to save money.
Interestingly, if the air is so fresh and clean in the passenger cabin, one has to wonder why airlines feel it is necessary to provide the flight crew in the cockpit, at considerable additional expense, with their own independent air supply.
A Single Passenger Can Infect Several Rows
Studies show that a single airline passenger with coronavirus - even if he is displaying no symptoms - can infect other passengers several rows in front of as well as behind him, despite the vaunted airplane ventilation system.
Mounting evidence - including "super-spreading" events in which multiple choir singers, restaurant diners or dance students were infected - suggests that the virus can be transmitted through microscopic droplets known as aerosols that can float in the air, potentially for hours.
Indeed, there have been well documented events in which the virus has actually traveled as much as 26 feet (in a meat-packing plant) and 14 feet (in a well ventilated restaurant).
So, even if it were somehow possible to maintain a 6-foot social-distance separation between passengers - not only during the flight, but also during the more crowded boarding and disembarking process - it would be woefully insufficient to provide even minimal protection from possible death or disability from coronavirus, argues Banzhaf.
An example of just how dangerous flying can be is the experience of a virologist and epidemiologist who, because he was all too well aware of the risks of coronavirus, was very careful to wear a mask and gloves, and to wipe down all the surfaces which he touched, on a single recent flight.
He nevertheless contracted coronavirus just days after his flight, and believes that - because of the many precautions he was so careful to take - it had to come from airborne virus particles which entered through his eyes during the flight.
This is just the kind of evidence which has convinced Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease experts, not to risk his life by flying, probably not until there is a proven vaccine.
So, "don't bet your life on airline hype," Professor Banzhaf warns.