An IndiGo passenger flying from Chennai to Coimbatore on 25th May has tested positive for COVID-19. The flight crew has been quarantined for two weeks, and all the passengers onboard are being notified. The case, which happened on the day domestic flights resumed, highlights the potential dangers of flying. But how unsafe is to fly right now? Let’s find out.
First case on a flight
The incident occurred the evening domestic flights resumed in India, on an IndiGo flight from Chennai to Coimbatore, both in the southern state of Tamil Nadu. In line with state protocols, all passengers on the plane were tested for COVID-19, with one testing positive. The passenger, a 24-year-old male, was then hospitalized for further monitoring.
In a statement, IndiGo has said the flight crew is in isolation for 14 days and the other passengers are being notified of the case. Flight crews are at a high risk of contracting the virus due to contact with hundreds of people. All passengers on domestic flights to Tamil Nadu are subject to a 14-day home quarantine if asymptomatic and a government-run one if found to have symptoms at the airport.
IndiGo also clarified that the affected passenger was following all safety protocols, such as wearing a face shield, mask, and gloves, and no one was seated in the vicinity of him. This could reduce the risk of virus transmission significantly, protecting other passengers onboard.
Do safety protocols work?
While this case will set off alarm bells, it’s an optimal test to see how safe travel is right now. Stringent safety protocols are in place for all domestic flights, and individual states are imposing their own screenings and quarantines. All these steps are being put to the test as the first case of COVID-19 on a flight emerges.
#AAI's @aaiclcairport handled the domestic operation of #airindiaexpress IX 025 from BOM to CCJ, today. All precautionary measures were taken for ensuring social distancing & safe handling of pax with the cooperation of all airport agencies & state health department.#IndiaFlyBack pic.twitter.com/uHgLmkBmLN
— Airports Authority of India (@AAI_Official) May 25, 2020
If no other passengers from the flight test positive, it could highlight how effective these measures are. This will raise passenger confidence, who would feel safer knowing that even if someone onboard had COVID-19, they will be safe. However, if the crew or other passengers do fall ill, it would confirm that flying is a hazardous activity during this pandemic.
The discovery of a COVID-19 case on the first day of domestic flight is not good news for the industry. While the risk of transmission in the cabin is low, passengers confidence will be hit. However, the quick detection of the case and mandatory quarantines mean that the rules are effective and can keep passengers safe. The coming weeks will be important to see if more cases are detected, or if we can continue flying with the current rules.
What do you think about flying during the pandemic? Are these safety measures enough to keep passengers safe? Let us know in the comments below.