Priority boarding on a plane is bad for your health and increases the likelihood of spreading diseases, a study revealed.
Most airlines board by zones starting with first class and then moving on to other sections until the plane is full.
But a team of mathematicians who analyzed the boarding process say ‘zone boarding’ puts the most people at risk for getting infected if one passenger is sick.
They recommend using a two-zone boarding process, seating half the plane from the front and half from the back, which would lower passenger contact by 27 percent.
Better yet, they say all airlines should opt for smaller commercial planes with just 50 seats to decrease the risk of infection in the wake of outbreaks like the Ebola virus.
Researchers from Arizona State University studied boarding scenarios on planes to see how a disease would spread if one person was infected.
They used a mathematical model to calculate the different scenarios of boarding a plane with one random person being sick with Ebola.
The results showed that the method of boarding in zones with first class at the front increased the likelihood of someone being exposed to the infected individual.
If, for example, the infected individual was in 16B then they would travel past all the first and business class sections that are already filled.
This increased the likelihood it would spread to the first sixteen rows and on to others as the plane continued to fill.
Airlines like to board in zones because it makes it uniformed and adds benefits to people who paid more for a prime seat.
But from a health perspective, it increases the risk for spreading germs to more passengers on the plane.
The researchers used the Ebola outbreak in 2014 as an example to show how an infectious disease could become a serious problem in a plane setting.
How YOU can protect yourself when you are traveling on a plane
Planes hold passengers in tight quarters for an extended period of time.
While it isn’t possible to avoid any chances of catching germs from someone, you can still help protect yourself with some of these tips.
Avoid the aisle seats
They are nice for more legroom but these seats insure that you come in contact with more people on the plane.
Opt for a middle or window seat instead to avoid more germs.
Disinfect your seat area
We would like to think that the airplane gets an extensive clean between flights, but it doesn’t.
You don’t know who was in the seat before you so bring some disinfectant wipes to use when you first sit down.
Bring your own water bottle
Staying hydrated is necessary on airplanes because the air gets incredibly dry.
Fill up your water bottle right before the flight to make sure you have enough liquids while you are in the air.
Avoid sitting at the back of the plane
This is where the bathrooms tend to be and people congregate there to wait in line.
This puts you in more contact with germs and the people on the plane.
In a series of tests, they looked how infection spread during zonal boarding, randomized (similar to Southwest Airlines) and a two-section strategy.
The tests showed that a two-section and randomized boarding system would reduce the risk of coming in contact with the infected individual by 27 percent.
Additionally, if smaller planes with only 50 seats were used, it would reduce the risk of someone coming in contact with the infected individual by another 13 percent.
The deplaning process was also looked at, but researchers found that it didn’t make as large of an impact because the process is a lot shorter than boarding.
They had no recommendations for how deplaning should change since people get off a lot faster than boarding and there isn’t the same type of clustering.