Covid-19: Blocking off middle seats on planes not necessary, says Boeing exec

Boeing’s director of product marketing Jim Haas said that other, personal safety measures are more important

Blocking off middle seats in aircraft is not necessary to protect aircraft passengers from Covid-19 as long as other safety measures such as mandatory face masks are in place, according to Jim Haas, the director of product marketing for US aviation giant Boeing.

Several weeks ago, Boeing announced a new Confident Travel Initiative (CTI), in which it will work with other stakeholders in the aviation sector to establish industry-recognised cleaning and disinfection recommendations.

The initiative also stresses the important of high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters, which are already present on all commercial airplanes Boeing delivers. Although HEPA has not yet been tested with the Covid-19 virus, it has been shown to be more than 99.9 percent effective on particles of similar sizes.

Speaking to Middle East media on Wednesday, Haas said HEPA filters mean that particles are unlikely to spread throughout the cabin, even on low-cost carriers with higher passenger density.

“The air flows from the ceiling to the floor not front to back,” he said. “All the air that goes in, and then goes back out, passes through HEPA filters.”

Additionally, Haas said Boeing does not believe that keeping middle seats empty and other in-fight social distancing measures are effective, particularly when compared to personal steps such as masks.

“We certainly do not think it is, as long as passengers do not travel when they feel ill, as long as the aircraft are being cleaned and sanitised, and protective measures are in place. This is the personal responsibility portion, [such as] people wearing masks,” he said.

“As long as all these protection measures are in place, we do not see a need to block the middle seats,” Haas added. “The first layer is working to keep the virus off the airplane by having people not travel that feel ill, as well as proper procedures in the airport to check temperatures and encourage handwashing.”

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