Aircraft ventilation and keeping cabin air clean
Have you got concerns about flying due to the COVID–19 pandemic? The good news is that thanks to efficient air ventilation and filtering, airplanes are an unlikely place to catch viruses.
“On average, the air in cabins is completely changed every three to seven minutes”, explains Marko Anttila, Head of Engineering at Finnair Technical Operations. ”This is a much higher rate of flow than in other indoor environments, and it means that passengers are provided with about 80 times as much air as they need to breathe.”
HEPA filters on aircraft remove 99.79% of bacteria and viruses
Finnair’s fleet consists of Airbus (used in long-haul traffic and in European traffic), Embraer (used on European routes) and ATR aircraft (used in domestic and regional traffic).
All Finnair aircraft use mostly fresh air, drawn from outside of the plane and sterilized by high temperatures in the pneumatic and air conditioning systems. The air that customers and crew breathe in the cabin is circulated using High-Efficiency-Particulate Arrestors (HEPA) filters, which remove bacteria and viruses, including MERS and COVID–19 with an efficiency of 99.97%.
HEPA filters on Finnair’s airplanes offer similar performance to those used to keep the air clean in hospital operating theatres.
“One important characteristic of ventilation in an aircraft is that the fresh air is supplied from overhead stowage compartment level and extracted at floor level, which means that there is no airflow forward or rearward along the cabin”, says Marko Anttila. “That also helps to reduce the possibility of spreading viruses.”
HEPA filters are changed and disposed according to manufacturer instructions.
Overall, a passenger’s risk of in-flight transmission of SARS-CoV-2 is likely to be low or extremely low.