Airlines and aircraft manufacturers have touted the robust ventilation in cabins, with the constant introduction of fresh air from outside the plane, as protection for passengers against virus transmission. But travelers should be aware of the one time in many trips when airflow is reduced: deicing.
The process, which usually takes 10 to 20 minutes, is essential for takeoffs in wintry weather. As deicing fluid is sprayed on jets, outside air is shut off so fumes and fluid don’t get into jets. Air inside the cabin continues to recirculate and pass through hospital-grade filters capable of capturing viruses. Airlines and aircraft manufacturers say it’s safe for passengers during deicing; public health experts who have studied airline cabin conditions generally agree.
But aircraft manufacturers confirm the flow of air is reduced by as much as 50%. Airbus and Boeing have recently issued new guidance to airlines about how to handle cabin airflow during deicing.
As winter approaches, fliers can help themselves and fellow passengers by making sure they have masks on when they hear the deicing process start. It’s not the time to be sipping coffee.
On Friday, Boeing issued a memorandum to airlines recommending that air recirculation remain switched on during deicing. Boeing had previously told airlines that recirculation was optional.