Star Alliance Member Avianca Offers The Ultimate Test Of Whether Covid-19 Spreads Inflight

Are HEPA air filters enough to stop a super-spreading event on a plane? Bankrupt Star Alliance member Avianca seemed determined to find out.

The airline decided to host a concert in the sky on their flight AV8565 from Medellín to Bogotá. Notice that everyone on board is supposed to be masked, but one of the great questions airlines have faced is what exactly constitutes a mask? The group had masks with cutouts over their mouths in order to play their instruments.

Avianca seems to realize now, after they’ve done it and promoted it on social media, that this may not have been the best idea:

In this new reality we learn every day. We just wanted to deliver an emotional moment for travelers, today we learned from this situation.

Credit: Avianca

The U.S. CDC only just posted guidance of the possibility of virus spread via aerosols, but it’s been clear for some time. For instance here’s the CDC in May on the March Seattle choir super spreader event and the January South Korea call center event.

There have only been a handful of flights that have been identified as places where Covid-19 may have spread. Of course in addition to HEPA air filters, people don’t usually run call centers in the sky or sing throughout their flights. Whether inflight concerts, with musicians wearing masks with holes cut out over the mouths spread the virus is an important study, and researchers will have Avianca to thank for any new knowledge generated.

Of course if the musicians weren’t infectious, we won’t learn much. But since Colombia has the fifth-most confirmed cases in the world with less than a quarter of the per capita testing of the United States that’s not something you’d bet on.

(HT: One Mile at a Time)

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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