Bjorn’s Corner: Do I get COVID in airline cabins? Part 6.

June 12, 2020, ©. Leeham News: In our Corner series about flying during the COVID-19 pandemic, we now look at how different worldwide organizations are engaged to understand the COVID-19 pandemic and how to handle it in an air transport context.

Based on input from the industry stakeholders, the organizations have in the last weeks issued plans for the rebuild of the global air transport system.

Pandemic and air transport. From ICAO’s home page.

An air traffic system built on cooperation

It’s important to understand that global air traffic has emerged because the world’s states agreed in 1944 that they needed a worldwide air transport system and ICAO was set up to manage it. Here ICAO’s charter:

The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) is a UN specialized agency, established by States in 1944 to manage the administration and governance of the Convention on International Civil Aviation (Chicago Convention).

ICAO works with the Convention’s 193 Member States and industry groups to reach consensus on international civil aviation Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPs) and policies in support of a safe, efficient, secure, economically sustainable and environmentally responsible civil aviation sector.

ICAO is then the natural organization to coordinate and issue recommendations on how the resurgence of international air traffic shall be achieved. For the purpose, ICAO’s international COVID-19 working group, CART, issued Take-off: Guidance for Air Travel through the COVID-19 Public Health Crisis, on June 1st.

The industry and the states involved

The airline industry has supported CART to issue Take-off through IATA, the worldwide airline association. The airline OEMs have provided information about, for example, the risks of spreading the Virus through the aircraft Environmental Control System, ECS.

IATA has issued a document in support of Take-off called “Biosafety for Air Transport, A Roadmap for Restarting Aviation and different states are now chiming in.

Based on (among others) the recommendations from ICAO and IATA/OEMs the European Union issued yesterday its recommendation for lifting international travel restrictions to EU’s 27 member states from June 30. The lifting of the restrictions will be gradual, with the implementation dependent on the connecting country and it’s COVID situation.

What’s included in Take-off?

Take-off has a short five-page header document focusing on the principles for the recommendations, then a very concrete 43-page appendix with details on what to do and by whom, for the different parts of the air transport system. It also gives templates for checklists and control sheets for several areas.

You find the document here. To understand its scope, here the table of contents of the Appendix:

As seen, it’s hands-on and concrete.

How will states implement it?

ICAO, IATA, and for instance, the European Commission, all emphasize that the pandemic hits different countries at different times and with vayring dynamics. It means, the recommendations shall always adapt to the local situation and to where the countries are in their pandemic cycle.

It also means that measures shall adapt to, for instance, a resurgence in infection numbers and that recommendations will be updated as we learn more about COVID-19.

What is clear is we are now at a time to get air transport going again, while at the same time making sure it won’t spread the virus again.

25 Comments on “Bjorn’s Corner: Do I get COVID in airline cabins? Part 6.

  1. Thank you Bjorn, excellent information as always. I appreciate that you gather knowledge from widely distributed sources. and present it in a manner that builds understanding. The detailed facts and reasoning are especially valuable, as they’re often missing in other reporting and opinion.

  2. I read the first part.

    Its really nothing more than a compilation of shoving off the details to others.

    IE: Use local provided guidelines on sanitation. hmmmm

    WHO Guidelines: Ok, we dig into WHO, then we fine out if there is any substance to it or it refers you to IE above.

    In short a typical Bureaucrat document that means each and every one has their own take and can hid behind it.

    I have seen to many of these the are lip service to the issue and violate the spirit.

  3. When you write a multi-part series, could you add a subtitle to each individual article? That would make it easier for us to look up specific subtopics or conversations.

  4. There is a non-zero probability that no vaccine will ever be assembled against COVID-19.

    Same as AIDS, but of course COVID can spread much more easily. That disease is 40 years old (at least).

    What is the acceptable passenger experience ? Wearing a mask on public transports (metro, bus) for 20-30 minutes a day is unpleasant. Wearing a mask for boarding/deplanning is acceptable, but wearing a mask on a 10-hour long-haul flight is a no-go: many/most potential travellers will prefer not to travel. They will use other methods of communications (business travellers), entertainement (leisure), or use a car.

    The very wealthy will revert to bizjets.

    The mere mortals will not accept (or very reultantly) being squeezed into seats with unknown strangers around them.

    This is not an issue today when aircraft are being reactivated but the load factor is around 25-40% (instead of 85-90%). Not viable long-term for any airline.

    What will be the new economic balance for airlines ?

    Should be aircraft cabins be re-designed to offer more privacy and less infection risk ?

    Any re-design must be safety acceptable, ie. vertical plastic shields around seats are probably not an option.

    So any re-design will probably mean less passengers per cabin. Which means higher prices. Is the low-cost model doomed ?

    What will be the new economic model ? Will economy class look like the layout of most business class cabins, but with simple seats and parsimonious food, and significantly higher prices ?

    New lavatories have to be invented. Today most flights have one lavatory exclusively reserved for cabin and cockpit crew members. Not viable on a 180-seat airplane. One can imagine a massive flow of UV radiation in the lavatories between two occupants.

    At the end, the flight experience can be improved, compared to pre-COVID service levels which were becoming almost non-existant.

    Let’s use our imagination.


    • @aviafun

      good suggestions, but very expensive, re designing infra structure is very costly, and there has to be a very well understood consensus on parameters and who pays for what

      Given that this bug is still very largely an unknown do you think there’s a technical imperative which will carry sufficient conviction?

      Let alone such stimulate the whole of society to bend to a new way of life which is to be, not only in airtravel, much much more expensive –

      I think it will go the other way, the bug will fade as a doomsday machine, people will shrug and and adapt, a few more deaths here and there…. and look back on the year of the bug with wry smiles

  5. The presumption of Bjorn’s series, as well as the guidelines being issued by the various sources, is that there is a path back to some degree of normalcy. I think that is pretty typical of a basically positive outlook on life.

    I suspect that’s valid, because it represents what most people want. We’ve seen in the protests that people want to be out and active. In my state, the lifting of restrictions on bars and restaurants resulted in a flood of patrons. In both cases there was far less concern about distancing, proximity or precautions, than will be followed by airports & airlines.

    So I think it will start slowly, and we will learn as we go, but people will balance the risks as they do for all other elements of their lives, and they will fly again.

    However there will also be people who have a more negative outlook, who will not embrace this and choose to isolate themselves instead. That’s their choice and it should be respected. But in the meantime, others will find ways to move forward.

    Fortunately for the naysayers, when they do finally emerge, they will find that things have been largely restored by the people they criticized for venturing out and trying to improve, and they will benefit from those efforts. Such is the way of things, and thus has it always been.

    • @Rob

      Your comments as always offer a smooth version

      In this you suggest that isolation is essentially a negative reaction, and a ‘choice’

      This is to forget that in many countries including I think your own it was imposed by governments, mandated and enforced as absolutely essential – & still is to a large extent in many

      It is probably unwise to council flip flop from one essential requirement/mandate to another rather the opposite as the best policy available against a still very largely unknown virus

      • Gerrard, your views are hard to delineate. You have railed against the lockdowns as imposed by governments, but also against efforts like this to discuss how they could be lifted safely.

        So I don’t know how to respond, except to say it’s not wrong to think about what comes after the virus. Or if it will always be with us, how to deal with it whilst carrying on a somewhat normal life. That life will likely include air travel as one facet.

        I mentioned that the choice to isolate oneself should be respected, but so too should the rights of others to be more active, and to look for solutions, if they choose. The thing to avoid is to for either group to try to make that choice for the other. To do so is an infringement on rights, that will not be welcome on either side.

        • @Rob

          Railed is the wrong word – Just as I argued that martial law is not a/the solution, I argue that it is not plausible or possible to abrogate such ‘safely’, other than from a public order point of view

          Both the imposition of martial law and it’s ’lifting’ are in a health care sense equally foolish and irrelevant as a measure against this bug, equally destructive of reasonable measures

          It is impossible, given the government and world wide panick recently organised, to suppose that everyone will at once be released from their fear – some may wish to isolate, some to congregate, but these are private initiatives not state&nationwide mandated imposed or even ‘guidelined’

          In the US it is possible that groups – or movements even- of ‘confiners’ or ‘congregators’ may form and strenuously affirm their identities and rights

          But anything, as you well know, is easily the occasion for such

          I have frequently advised what should be thought of when attempting to deal with this and other related bugs – de scaling of ind ag, up scaling of individual communal local and national health

          • Quarantine is the term you should use as the term has been around for centuries and its provisions are used to various extents for other infectious diseases. Its nothing like martial law which is a different term for different occasions- the military control of civil government- not even when there is natural disasters, which have different emergency provisions.
            Quarantine is permitted under the US Constitution even for people are arent showing illness, based on previous cases.
            Then again most of your comments are directly connected with aviation and are otherwise ill -informed.

          • @dou

            It’s not up to me, or you, to prescribe the term which should be used, by the people, press or authorities

            Quarantine is not the term used by the authorities either in the US or elsewhere except exceptionally

            The US term shelter in place is the form of phrase used most widely by US authorities which have mandated it – the courts are now starting, one by one, to find many aspects of these orders un constitutional

            Generally speaking worldwide some form of the military term lockdown is used – in, precisely, the usual absence of laws governing the type of martial law régime they impose

            Most European governments use provisions of an ‘State of Urgency’ generally invented to counter terrorism to justify use of force by police and military to enforce curfews, lockdown

            India has used similar language in imposition of lockdown by emergency executive decree

            Form of language used is important and revealing – quarantine was always used as a term to describe local measures limited to a ship, or small area, never, correct me if I am wrong, across a nation

            For this reason, with this bug, quarantine is very seldom used by either people press or authorities to describe the various measures taken word wide

          • Really
            in my country the word quarantine was used , as required under long standing legal provisions and for the whole country.

            And for New York

            or the speech from the White House Oval Office
            “Our team is the best anywhere in the world. At the very start of the outbreak, we instituted sweeping travel restrictions on China and put in place the first federally mandated quarantine in over 50 years. We declared a public health emergency and issued the highest level of travel warning on other countries as the virus spread its horrible infection.”

            The courts , local , state and federal government continues as normal, inspite of widespread unrest on different matters.
            As I said you are a hawker of fake news and falsehoods

          • @dou

            Quoting Trump is un impressive – this bug is dealt with at state level, not national, and the states issue shelter in place orders

            Which the courts have begun to strike down

            You should not follow one statement by Trump in this – if you look at the press or the people the word most used is lockdown, not quarantine or shelter in place

            You should also know that your country is one small part of the world; as I pointed out the larger part has, in many cases, adopted some form of martial law, or state of emergency response

            Also, please moderate your language, Trump makes his living by provocation, but he’s a professional

          • To counter Rob, the reports are people are not flocking back to restaurants even in those states that have no restrictions.

            They also reported people started abandoning restaurant and dense venues along with airlines before the restrictions

            So, smooth is a good term, I did not save references to the reports that disagree unfortunately .

            A small groups of irresponsible people can look like a wave when 80% of the people are not involved in that activity.

            Ergo, data driven vs opinion.

  6. What is increasingly becoming obvious is that the Coronavirus crisis has been blown out of proportion by scared politicians and fear-mongering media. Risk of death is infinitesimal for healthy people. The virus has hit disproportionately at people near end-of-life in long-term care homes.

    Just a tip of the iceberg: Alex Berenson is a well-known author, previously a New York Times journalist.

    I got the booklet and looking forward to Part 2

      • These percentages have to be put in relation to the total population in these age groups. For example, there is a higher population in the 18-44 age group than in the 75+ age group.

        Thus the difference in death rates between those two groups is higher than the simple 3.9% vs 48.7% ratio.

        Also, from casual conversation with friends and family, I have found out that a surprising number of people have been led to think that these percentages represent the actual death rate in those age groups.

        Actual Covid-19 death rate seems to be between 0.2% and 0.5% for the overall population. This would be from 2 to 5 times higher than regular seasonal flu, and comparable to other severe influenza pandemics in 1969 and 1957. Certainly not worth shutting down society and the economy.

        But today is different: baby boomers are more afraid of death than previous generations were, politicians are more easily scared, the media is over-hyping everything, because Fear sells.

        • One issue is that this perception depends on the amount of testing that is done. The models even disagree on how much testing is needed to establish a representative sample. So I don’t think we know for sure what the true infection or death rates are. Testing also varies widely over geographic areas.

          We do know the rates within the population that is tested. But that also changes with time, people who tested negative may not stay negative.

          There are so many factors involved in transmission and course of the illness. We can observe trends but still hard to make definitive statements.

          In terms of the lockdowns, I think those were a result of precaution based on the initial numbers that came out of the models, as well as the initial flood of patients at health care facilities. That initial trend did not continue, fortunately, but the illness has continued at a steady rate

          Many of the models have proven to be not very accurate, but they were all we had at first. As time goes on and we gain experience, we can make better judgements about what is the best response.

  7. Oh, COVID has stifled our infrastructure and societal interaction for years to come. Even locally, you need to keep distancing yourself from new cases.
    It’s actually baffling.

  8. Transworld, responding to your claims in Part 5 etc.:

    So avoid Costco if you judge it bad.

    This is a panicdemic, failing to grasp where the real risk is:
    – Care residences/nursing homes/convalescence hospitals and such.
    o Florida paid attention, thought things through, and took care of those assertively.
    o Those residents will not be flown, because of their medical problems.
    – Individuals with deficient immune systems, such as cancer treatement, organ transplant, strong asthma, … I know three couples who are self-isolating. Those people will avoid flying.
    – There is some risk to buttmouths who deteriorate their lungs, it’s their choice to protect themselves or not.
    – There is some risk to people with conditions they don’t know about, such as uncontrolled diabetes (which causes some swelling) and unknown
    – Smart individuals monitor their health, I check body temperature and blood oxygen twice daily, and peanut butter smell (as _some_ people reported loss of smell before feeling sick, they probably still could smell some substances whereas PB and some other substances trigger different mechanism in body).)
    – Health care workers are at risk because of repeated exposure.

    Huge problem is use of the fool’s game of ‘modelling’, which always exaggerates according to experienced epidemiologists and mathematicians. Reasons are that input data will never be accurate or complete, and not all factors for the formulas will be known. (For example, would the phenomenon of care aides working in more than one facility have been thought of? It did not make sense to me initially, as peak workload times are the same in all facilities. That was a problem in British Columbia. Perhaps because employers – government health systems being the biggest, limited the number of hours worked a week so didn’t have to pay more benefits. Perhaps because some aides were working two jobs to make money to send to their families back home – many are from .SE Asia, such as the Phillipines.)

    OTOH, Florida looked at actual information from Italy, thought it though, observed the preponderance of problems in care residences, then acted quickly – starting with residences that had a history of being marginal in past inspections. Florida was tough on hospitals to avoid cross-contamination with care residences.

    Also observe that the affected region of Italy:
    – Has a high proportion of cigarette smokers.
    – Hospitals stooopidly insisted all ill people go into hospital, thus beds were not available for really ill people. (That’s the source of the ‘extend the curve’ tactic (my words) that just prolongs the Recession/Depression.)
    – Italy like Communist China did not realize they had something other than a strong outbreak of the perennially killing corona virus INFLUENZA. There’s suspicion it was about as much as two months before it was recognized (sewage samples in Italy suggest that).
    – Italy had a super-spreader event, some kind of feetsball game with the usual boozing and carousing, many attendants were from Spain where the opposing team was from, so they took the virus back home.

  9. More to inform ‘Transworld’:

    Politicians are fear-mongering, politicians who did not prepare for the inevitable – not enough PPE etc. It’s emotionalism on a scale not seen with Hong Kong flu, swine flu, and SARS v1. They also are lazy, taking the seemingly easy way out of restricting what feeds people: freedom, as Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau did in lying about a small Marxist-Separatist terrorist bunch to justify invoking the War Measures Act against recommendations of experienced cabinet ministers. It’s what policitians do – remember the US Cabinet Secretary who banned the life-saving insecticide DDT when there was no science to justify that, he later admitted that, in my words he was pandering.

    They prattle test results, which are very badly skewed to persons demanding testing and persons with specific reason to get tested (such as symptoms resembling COVID-19/INFLUENZA), they blab death rates which vary widely – 8x in Italy for example, due to different procedures of recording.

    See for learned advice.

  10. Bjorn, betware of premature research.

    Some recent research indicates that shedding rate of virus is low in the time between infection and feeling ill, a time that is now said to be much less than earlier claimed, and low from people who do not feel very ill.

    So checking blood oxygen and body temperature may have value to screen out people who are sick, whether with COVID-19, INFLUENZA, or something else.

    Also I comment on vaccine, which ‘Transworld’ mentioned: whenever it magically becomes available will it be fully effective? Vaccine against the perennially killing corona virus INFLEUNZA is not, sometimes only 66% for a successful one. And that’s a population average oder people may have less protection. There is a stronger vaccine now, recommended for older people, if an when producers get their act together which they did not last fall, part of the problem is overcontrol by the Canadian government.

    The proper course of action against the SARS-CoV2 virus is to recognize who is vulnerable – as Florida did, and take sensible precautions to reduce transmission as you are informing us about. (See my comment directed at ‘Transworld’. The virus will not go away.)

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