A new study suggests that the risk of passengers being exposed to the virus from an infected person on the plane could be reduced by 23% to 57% if the middle seats are empty, compared to a full flight.
Researchers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Kansas State University have estimated the distance that virus particles travel in the air inside an airplane. To do this, they used aerosol-emitting mannequins to measure the flow of virus particles through airplane cockpit mockups.
However, the study did not take into account the use of masks because it was based on a previous study conducted in 2017, before the pandemic.
It also did not consider whether the passengers are vaccinated against COVID-19. The CDC says that vaccinated people can travel at low risk to themselves, although the agency still recommends not traveling without it for essential activities.