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The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has sought to quell concerns over the safety of air travel after one of its own experts said the chance of catching Covid-19 while flying had significantly increased following the spread of the Omicron variant.

Aircraft passengers are twice or even three times more likely to catch Covid-19 during a flight since the emergence of the new strain, according to IATA medical advisor, David Powell.

In an interview with Bloomberg, he argued Omicron is rapidly spreading just as more travellers take to the skies for year-end holidays and family reunions.


The new strain is highly transmissible and has become dominant in a matter of weeks, accounting for more than 70 per cent of all new cases in the United States.

IATA has now clarified that aircraft cabins remain a very low risk environment for contracting Covid-19 even though Omicron appears to be more transmissible than other variants in all environments.

Factors that contribute to the very low risks include aircraft design characteristics (direction of air flow, rate of air exchange and filtration), the forward orientation of passengers while seated, well-enforced masking, and enhanced sanitary measures.

The controlled nature of the aircraft cabin compared to other enclosed environments adds a further measure of protection, Powell noted in a release.