Flying First Class Won’t Protect You From COVID
It has been about seven months since the flight as we knew it had changed due to the outbreak of the new coronavirus. Now that people are starting to slowly fly again – and more are expected to take the plunge in the holiday season – the question is how to do it in the safest way. One common idea is that flying in a first class cabin gives you a slightly greater distance between you and your fellow passengers and therefore should be accompanied by a reduced risk of COVID-19 transmission. But that’s not all. Here’s what you need to know before spending the extra money on an upgrade.
Why first class might seem safer
When you think about it, theory makes sense. According to a poll by the International Air Transport Association , 65% of participants said sitting next to someone with COVID-19 on an airplane was their biggest problem when it comes to air travel. So naturally, having more personal space – like first class or business class – can help alleviate these fears.
There is also the idea that fewer people in first class can also reduce the risk of transmission. As noted in a recent article in CN Traveler , this is not only the case when you are actually on the plane: “From check-in to boarding and disembarking, premium passengers typically face smaller queues and less noise throughout the journey.”
But is it really safer?
In short, not really. CN Traveler posed this question to two infectious disease experts, and neither of them seemed to think that flying first class was a safer option for travelers in terms of the risk of COVID-19 transmission.
According to Dr. David Aronoff, director of infectious diseases at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, there is no evidence to support the idea that first class passengers are more protected from COVID-19 than their economy class counterparts. He points out, however, that he sees the logic in assuming that the risk will be lower with fewer people in the cabin, “but it’s hard to tell if it’s really worth that extra amount of money, ” he told CN Traveler .
As it turns out, medical grade HEPA air filters used in aircraft are not just limited to the first class section – they provide the same level of protection no matter where you sit. “It doesn’t really matter where you sit on the plane,” Dr. Mark Gendro, chief physician at Beverly Hospital and Addison Gilbert, told CN Traveler . “The most important are the precautions we take: face masks, proper hand hygiene, surface disinfection. For their part, air carriers are disinfecting the cabin between flights, and they have intensified it. The last thing they need is to have a lot of infected people on their planes. “
If you are able (thanks to glasses or money) to be able to afford first class, of course, this is likely to be a more comfortable and enjoyable journey (as has always been on the street, pandemic or not). But this is not your ticket for a safer flight.