Delta Improves Filtering Of Jet Bridge Air To Limit Spread Of Coronavirus

On board and inflight is one of the safest indoor environments from a Covid-19 transmission perspective. But that doesn’t mean that travel is safe. Most planes (but not smaller regional jets and turboprops) have HEPA air filtration that’s highly protective.

That doesn’t mean the virus doesn’t spread. Often when this and other viruses are attributed to flights it’s likely spreading at airport security, in the gate area, or on the jet bridge. These are places where passengers congregate closely together and where the air isn’t filtered as well. And when you’re boarding an aircraft that’s powered down you’re not getting the full protection, either.

United Airlines solved the issue of passengers sitting together during boarding and deplaning without the benefit of rapid refresh of outside air and top quality air filtration by running the auxiliary power unit. That doesn’t help in the gate area or on the jet bridge, however.

Delta has announced a different tact. They are “replac[ing] the current air filtering systems that pump outside air into our jetbridges and parked aircraft with LEED Platinum MERV14 filters” by mid-month. This will happen at “[m]ore than 600 gates at 31 airports where Delta operates – with plans to expand to more airports in the months ahead.”

Cranky Flier thinks this is overkill.

I’m glad to see improvement and investment, but I’m not all that impressed by Delta’s use of MERV-14 filters which are several grades less effective filtering viruses than HEPA filters. On the other hand most office buildings use filters with a lower MERV rating, and many air handling systems aren’t designed for ratings this high.

I like that they’re experimenting and innovating aggressively. They were first out with electrostatic spraying, other U.S. airlines saw them do it and copied, as a United executive admitted to me. Now about those TSA checkpoints…

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Why are they filtering outside replacement air at all? Filters are only needed for recirculated air.

  2. At this point they seem to be the only airline pretending to give a shit about pushing the envelope on hygiene.

  3. I’ve always found it fascinating how people are supposed to stay far away from each other in the airport, at the gate area, at eating establishments, and in the jetway. Yet they sit shoulder to shoulder directly next to each other for hours at a time in a very small enclosed space. Certainly the air quality is good in the plane, but why is it so important to avoid being next to each other in the airport which is a much larger building, some with multi-story ceilings, but it’s ok for them to sit directly touching each other for several hours? Not debating whether it’s wise to travel right now (I personally think it’s selfish to leisure travel right now), but how can it be ok to so close to each other on the plane itself while completely avoiding people in a big building? It just doesn’t make much sense to me.

  4. Thought as a someone who earns a living from writing you might like to know this.
    re: “Delta has announced a new tact.” The correct wording is “Delta has announced a new tack” or tactic. The word tack means a course of action or course, as in sailing. A tactic is a strategy, but tact is not an abbreviation of tactic. Tact is sensitivity in social situations.

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