United Airlines To Amp Up Air Flow During Boarding

Airlines all over the world are implementing strategies to make people feel safe as they begin to reengage in the activity of air travel. On Monday, United Airlines announced that it would be maximizing air flow through its planes’ HEPA filters during both boarding and disembarking. The new procedure will come into effect on all mainline aircraft on July 27th.

United 787-10
United will increase air flow during boarding and disembarking beginning next week. Photo: United Airlines

HEPA full speed

To further help prevent the spread of COVID-19, and, perhaps, to cater to the pandemic-weary cautious customer, United Airlines will be maximizing air flow through its high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters during boarding and disembarking. The airline said its pilots and staff are working to implement the new protocol, which will begin Monday next week.

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“We know the environment on an aircraft is safe and because the air flow is designed to minimize the transmission of disease, the earlier we maximize air flow over our HEPA filtration system, the better for our crew and our customers,” said Scott Kirby, United’s chief executive officer.

“The quality of the air, combined with a strict mask policy and regularly disinfected surfaces, are the building blocks towards preventing the spread of COVID-19 on an airplane,” he continued.

AirAsia cleaning
HEPA filters recirculate cabin air every two to three minutes. Photo: AirAsia

Removing 99.97% of particles

On aircraft fitted with HEPA filters, which have surely gotten more mentions in the past few months than over the span of their existence, the air flows from the ceiling vents and out through the floor and sidewalls. It then recirculates through the system.

It then adds fresh air from the outside and circulates it back into the cabin 50-50. The filters remove 99.97% of particles, and the system completely replaces cabin air every two to three minutes.

Furthermore, United said it has been partnering with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to study just how effectively air flow onboard can prevent the spread of aerosolized particles.

United Airlines Hygiene
United was one of the first carriers to make masks mandatory. Photo: United Airlines

Waiting for a vaccine will mean new ideas

As demand continues to falter globally, concerns remain of a second wave, although granted, most countries are not over their first. As such, we are bound to see the battle for passenger trust spark more innovation. Or, as United CEO Mr Kirby puts it,

“We expect that air travel is not likely to get back to normal until we’re closer to a widely administered vaccine – so we’re in this for the long haul. And I am going to keep encouraging our team to explore and implement new ideas, new technologies, new policies and new procedures that better protect our customers and employees.”

United was one of the first US airlines to require the wearing of face masks on board its planes. Will other carriers follow suit with the maximized air flow?

Do measures like these matter to you when choosing which airline to fly with during the pandemic? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.