Risk of Covid-19 was highest in window seats in economy class on one Qantas flight, study reveals

Business Insider US

  • A study of the spread of coronavirus on a Qantas flight in March revealed that travellers sitting in window seats half way down the economy cabin were at the highest risk of contracting the virus.
  • As many as 11 passengers caught Covid-19 onboard the five-hour domestic flight from Sydney to Perth
  • 11 people were infectious during the flight - nine of them had recently disembarked the cruise ship Ruby Princess in Sydney which announced a coronavirus outbreak.
  • This contradicts previous data suggesting that the window seat presents a lower chance of infection.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Passengers sat in window seats in the middle of an economy class cabin on a Qantas Airways flight in March were most at risk from contracting coronavirus, according to research by Australian scientists into that particular trip.

As many as 11 travelers caught Covid-19 onboard the five-hour flight from Sydney to Perth on March 19, the survey said. They were all sat in economy class in the middle of the aircraft, with seven of them sat in the window seat. This contradicts the belief supported by data from American scientists in March that window seats offer a lower chance of infection on account of having less contact with other people.

Most of those who contracted the deadly virus on the flight were also sat two rows away from infected passengers, although one was as many as six rows away, the study showed.

Scientists from Western Australia, who recorded their results in the Emerging Infectious Diseases journal, reported that 11 passengers had symptoms of the virus during the flight - nine of whom had recently disembarked the cruise ship Ruby Princess in Sydney which identified a coronavirus outbreak.

There were 243 passengers on board flight QF577, an Airbus A330, headed for Perth.

The coronavirus pandemic has killed over a million people worldwide this year, with one in five deaths occuring in the United States. After the easing of weeks-long lockdowns that confined billions to their homes in the early part of the year, cases of Covid-19 have jumped in the past few weeks, triggering new restrictions on movement.

Airline companies across the world are trying to encourage people to start travelling again, despite a resurgence in cases of Covid 19. The industry has struggled to keep itself financially stable during the pandemic which has triggered low demand for flights and quarantine restrictions. 

In September, British Airways announced it is burning through $25.9 million per day, whilst German airline Lufthansa has been losing around $1.1 million every hour, per Deutsche Welle.

The study had little impact on the stock market. Shares in Qantas finished 0.5% lower on Friday at A$4.11 (US$2.95), outperforming Sydney's broader S&P/ASX 300 Transportation index, which fell by 2.8%.

Qantas didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

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