Farther is always better in terms of exposure.  It’s true in airplanes, it’s true in movie theaters, it’s true in restaurants, it’s true everywhere. — Byron Jones, a mechanical engineer at Kansas State University
Farther is always better in terms of exposure. It’s true in airplanes, it’s true in movie theaters, it’s true in restaurants, it’s true everywhere. — Byron Jones, a mechanical engineer at Kansas State University
Empty Middle Seats on Planes Cut Coronavirus Risk in Study
Keeping the middle seats vacant during a flight could reduce passengers’ exposure to airborne coronavirus by 23 to 57 percent, researchers reported in a new study that modeled how aerosolized viral particles spread through a simulated airplane cabin.

“Farther is always better in terms of exposure,” said Byron Jones, a mechanical engineer at Kansas State University and co-author of the study. “It’s true in airplanes, it’s true in movie theaters, it’s true in restaurants, it’s true everywhere.”

But the study may have overestimated the benefits of empty middle seats because it did not take into account mask-wearing by passengers.

“It’s important for us to know how aerosols spread in airplanes,” said Joseph Allen, a ventilation expert at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health who was not involved in the study. But he added, “I’m surprised to see this analysis come out now, making a big statement that middle seats should stay open as a risk-reduction approach, when the model didn’t include the impact of masking. We know that masking is the single most effective measure at reducing emissions of respiratory aerosols.”


Although scientists have documented several cases of coronavirus transmission on planes, airplane cabins are generally low-risk environments because they tend to have excellent air ventilation and filtration.

Still, concern has swirled around the risk of airplane travel since the pandemic began. Planes are confined environments, and full flights make social distancing impossible. Some airlines began keeping middle seats vacant as a precaution.

... The cost-benefit analysis is tricky for airlines. But purely from a health perspective, keeping middle seats open would be helpful, providing a buffer between an infectious person and others nearby, according to Alex Huffman, an aerosol scientist at the University of Denver who was not involved in the study. “Distance matters, for both aerosols and droplets,” he said.
Read the full article: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/14/health/covid-plane-middle-seat.html