Is it Safe to Fly During the COVID-19 Pandemic?

Should you pack your bags? What does the evidence say?

Chana Davis, PhD
8 min readNov 2, 2020
Photo by HAL9001 on Unsplash

On the surface, air travel seems like a recipe for COVID-19 disaster — a bunch of strangers packed like sardines into a small space, sharing the same smelly air. Yet, recent news headlines and government policies, suggest that in-flight risks may be smaller than feared.

“Flying can be safer than grocery shopping, Harvard study asserts”. CNN

Is COVID-19 truly not spreading on board airplanes? Or, are industry and government agencies downplaying the risks associated with travel, for economic reasons? Let’s take a look at the evidence.

How likely is it that I will get COVID-19 from flying?

Photo by Suhyeon Choi on Unsplash

Boarding an airplane clearly increases your “exposure risk” — the risk that you will be exposed to someone with COVID-19 (see Appendix for sample calculation). Indeed, many public health agencies have mounted dashboards that publicly track in-flight exposures (eg. Canadian flight exposures, and British Columbia flight exposures).



Chana Davis, PhD

Scientist (PhD Genetics @Stanford) * Mother * Passionate about science-based healthy choices * Lifelong learner * Founder: Fueled by Science