The global pandemic has left many passengers understandably worried about the risks of flying.

At first glance, the idea of sitting close to strangers in an enclosed cabin for several hours feels like it would carry an increased risk of infection – but is that really the case?

In this post, we take a look at how aircraft cabin air systems work, and whether the cabin environment poses significant risk to passengers during the current pandemic.

How Cabin Air Systems Work

One of the most common misconceptions about aircraft cabins is that the air is sealed in and recycled.

It’s true that some of the air in cabins is ‘recycled’. The vast majority of planes are fitted with HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filtration systems designed to filter out between 99.7% and 99.999% of bacteria and viruses. The air inside the plane is circulated through these filters before entering the cabin.

In addition, fresh air is constantly being introduced into the cabin throughout the flight. Some aircraft utilise air sucked in by the jet engines, and divert it into the cabin air system. Other aircraft, such as the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, have dedicated intakes that supply air into the cabin system.

Cabin air flows primarily from ceiling to floor in a circular pattern and leaves through the floor grilles near the same seat row where it enters. This is a constant process, and as a result, the entire volume of cabin air is completely replaced every couple of minutes. To compare, the air in hospital rooms is exchanged around once every 10 minutes!


In practice, this should mean that cabin air is about as clean and safe as it can possibly be!

The Real World Risk

Airlines and aviation industry bodies have been expressing confidence about the safety of air travel for some time. According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA):

“The risk of catching an infection on an aircraft is typically lower than in a shopping center or office environment”

In Summer 2020, The International Civil Aviation echoed these thoughts in a statement:

“The current likelihood of contracting the virus while on flights is extremely low.”

Others, including the CDC in America and the World Health Organisation, have questioned these assertions, citing the difficulty of social distancing, and the extended periods spent in close contact with other passengers. Should infected individuals cough or sneeze, they believe there is still a significant risk of passengers in the same area becoming infected.

What does the data say?

Although there are several case studies showing that passengers have caught Covid on planes, it’s less clear how common this is. According to a recent study, domestic air travel does not appear to have been an important factor in the spread of Covid 19 in the USA. However all passengers are well advised to keep taking the standard Covid precautions.

Aviation Emergency Medical Oxygen Cylinders from AMS Composite Cylinders

In aviation, weight matters – and every gram saved cuts operating costs. AMS Composite Cylinders for aviation are designed to help airlines minimise the weight of their emergency medical oxygen systems.

AMS carbon composite cabin oxygen cylinders are some of the lightest available on the market today, and can be filled to higher pressures (up to 300 bar) than competing cylinders. The result is smaller cylinders that save space inside the cabin.

AMS emergency oxygen cylinders are certified for aviation use worldwide – in line with ISO 11119-2, UN-TPED Pi, DOT (USA), CS25 and TC (Canada) global standards and accreditations.

Lightweight cylinders can be produced in standard and custom sizes to suit the requirements of military and commercial aircraft.

For additional information about aviation emergency oxygen cylinders from AMS Composite Cylinders, or to discuss your requirements, please contact us today.