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Allied Pilots Association: Risk of In-Flight Virus Transmission “Infinitesimally Small”

FORT WORTH, Texas (March 12, 2021) – The Allied Pilots Association (APA), representing the 15,000 pilots of American Airlines, emphasized that the risk of contracting COVID-19 in flight is “infinitesimally small.“

Since the onset of the pandemic, APA has been partnering closely with Dr. Richard S. Roth, a prominent infectious disease specialist and aviation medical advisor based in Georgia.

“The safest part of an individual’s travel journey is onboard the aircraft,” Dr. Roth said. “The risk of airborne transmission on planes is so low that it’s hard to even find studies that lend any support to the idea.”

The combination of steadily growing herd immunity through vaccinations and previous infections, hospital-grade cabin air filtration, and the federal mask mandate – which remains in effect at airports and on planes, despite rollbacks by some state governments – makes the risk of transmission while on a flight “infinitesimally small,” according to Dr. Roth.

The newly approved American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, which President Biden signed into law on Thursday, includes $14 billion in aid for U.S. airlines.

“It doesn’t make sense that the federal government would invest in the airline industry if Americans shouldn’t travel,” said Capt. Eric Ferguson, APA President. “If you’ve been following safe guidelines at home, and your friends or relatives elsewhere have been doing likewise, booking a flight to visit them should not increase your risk."

The head of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) advised against traveling during a recent briefing, citing the risk of an increase in the COVID-19 infection rate.

"Numerous studies affirm that flying remains far and away the safest mode of travel," he said. "If the issue lies with individual behavior once travelers reach their destinations, then we hope that the CDC will focus its efforts there."

Founded in 1963, the Allied Pilots Association — the largest independent pilots union in the United States — is headquartered in Fort Worth, Texas. APA represents the 15,000 pilots of American Airlines, including several hundred pilots on full-time military leave of absence serving in the armed forces. The union’s website is AlliedPilots.org.

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