Study: COVID-19 risk while flying low, empty middle seats significantly reduce spread

Grand Strand

MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WBTW) – A new study says flying may not increase someone’s chances of getting the coronavirus if everyone on a plane is wearing a mask.

On Monday, nearly 700,000 travelers in the U.S. went through TSA. That’s about 1.9 million fewer people than on the same day last year.

Myrtle Beach International Airport (MYR) is not as busy as last summer, but visitors are still flying to the Grand Strand during the pandemic.

“Our flight was good and safe,” said Ari Taylor, who flew from Cleveland. “We got here good. We’re going to enjoy our weekend and we came for my birthday.”

“We have our masks, we have our babies and hand sanitizer,” said Matt Rosemeier, who flew with his wife Susan and two young children.

The MIT study says the risk of getting COVID-19 while flying is relatively low. On a Boeing 737 or Airbus 320 with middle seats blocked and everyone wearing masks, you have about a 1 in 77,000 chance of getting the virus.

MYR requires face coverings in its terminal, along with every airline flying there.

“I felt good,” said Cardell Bey, who flew from Cleveland. “We all had masks on.”

“It seemed like a regular, normal flight,” said Ray Bey, who also flew from Cleveland.

The study also says the risk of getting COVID-19 on a full one of those flights with no middle seats blocked goes up by about 79.1%. The odds are still relatively low, however, at 1 in 43,000. Airlines point to efficient filtration systems like high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) that make air safer.

Travelers landing at MYR on Friday say they’re also doing their part.

“We felt safe. So far, we feel great,” said Matt Rosemeier.

“It wasn’t any longer of a wait,” said Susan Rosemeier.

The MIT study doesn’t account for boarding, walking around the plane, using the bathroom or leaving the flight.

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