If COVID has taught aviation one thing, it’s that nothing is infallible. Even with testing in place, airlines need to remain vigilant for potentially infectious people on their flights. Although the risk of inflight transmission is low, isolating that person from the rest of the passengers is still the best course of action. Airbus has come up with a solution to facilitate this, without needing to block multiple rows of seats.
Dealing with a suspected infectious passenger
As borders slowly begin to reopen and more passengers take to the skies, airlines need to remain vigilant for symptomatic passengers onboard their flights. While testing aims to prevent infected passengers from making it onto the plane, current methods are not 100% effective in identifying every case. Almost, but not quite.
In the event that a passenger becomes symptomatic, coughing, sneezing or exhibiting a fever onboard, it is essential airlines do what they can to avoid contaminating other people on the flight. Recommendations from the World Health Organization (WHO), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and IATA are that the passenger should be separated from other travelers by means of physical distancing.
To achieve the ‘safe’ physical distance of two meters onboard a plane, airlines would need to block as many as eight seats surrounding the passenger. With low load factors, this is possible, but as demand begins to pick up, it will become less of a realistic prospect.
Airbus has proposed a solution to this, which would enable a suspected infectious passenger to be isolated in moments, allowing the aircraft to safely continue its journey to its destination.
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Airbus offers a solution in paxCASE
The solution proposed by European planemaker Airbus is called paxCASE, standing for Passenger Containment Area for Symptomatic Events. The solution is simple – create a physical barrier in order to safely transport a symptomatic person to their destination, without needing to block multiple rows of seats.
Airbus has designed the product to be easily retrofittable by crew during the flight. This means it is not required to be installed on a permanent basis, and instead can be deployed in the event of an inflight incident.
Rather than blocking off several rows in front and behind the passenger, something which would be impossible if load factors return to normal, the airline would just need to clear one row of three seats. The passenger would remain in the seat closest to the window, and would be effectively isolated by the plastic curtain.
The solution is said to be lightweight, easy to handle and simple to install and remove. There is no loss of comfort for the passenger, and they can continue to their destination without the risk of infecting other passengers.
While there is testing and other means in place to prevent infected passengers from making it onto the plane with COVID, these methods are not infallible. Added to this, in the event of another epidemic or pandemic outbreak, having such facilities onboard will enable airlines to conduct repatriation and emergency flights more easily, and with more passengers onboard.
The product has been nominated for a Crystal Cabin award this year, and has made it to the shortlist. Airbus intends to bring it to market before the end of this year.