IATA: Passengers Up To Three Times More Likely To Catch Omicron On Planes

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The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has warned that air travelers could be two to three times more likely to catch the COVID-19 Omicron variant onboard planes. A medical adviser within the organization made the statement ahead of the holiday travel peak and when Omicron is set to become the dominant strain.


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As informed by Bloomberg, IATA’s medical adviser and physician David Powell says aircraft passengers are two to three times more likely to catch Covid in the cabin. The assertion relates to Omicron’s higher transmissibility.

Powell said: “Whatever the risk was with delta, we would have to assume the risk would be two to three times greater with omicron, just as we’ve seen in other environments.”

Powell detailed that passengers flying Business class might be less likely to catch it in comparison to those in Economy due to the less dense seat configuration. Travelers should still wear masks at all times possible.

Transmission in aircraft cabins is lower than in other closed-door spaces given the air recirculation systems. Gary Kelly, CEO of Southwest Airlines (NYSE:LUV), recently said that, given the effectiveness of cabin air filters, masks do little to nothing to prevent infection.

Minimizing Risks

When asked about how passengers could go about prevention onboard while Omicron looms, Powell says: “The advice is the same, it’s just that the relative risk has probably increased, just as the relative risk of going to the supermarket or catching a bus has increased with omicron.”

Regarding mask usage on long-distance flights, the expert asserts that the majority of carriers are “encouraging, but not insisting,” on passengers alternating their mask-off periods such as meal and snack service.

“In simple terms, two people masked have minimal transmission from one to the other. If one of you removes your mask, then that person’s at greater risk of transmitting and at slightly greater risk of receiving.”

U.S. government advisor, Dr. Anthony Fauci, asserted that the Christmas travel period will likely boost the spread of the dreaded variant. He encouraged people to get vaccinated as it is key to avoiding the collapse of the healthcare system.

According to CNN, the Omicron variant currently accounts for 73% of new Covid cases in the U.S. as reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).