MIAMI – Airlines around the world are taking measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19, but one country might be taking things a bit too far.

On November 25, the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) released new guidelines for the country’s airline industry, which it oversees. The document (In Chinese), titled Technical Guidelines for Epidemic Prevention and Control for Airlines, Sixth Edition, contains advice about the best hygiene practices to carry out on aircraft and in airports.

But one of those suggestions, CTV reports, recommends that personnel like Flight Attendants wear disposable diapers so they do not need to use the bathroom. Needless to say, this has raised some eyebrows.

China Southern Airlines Boeing 737. Photo: Luca Flores.

PPE is Important

A section on PPE advises cabin crew on flights to/from high-risk countries to wear “medical masks, double-layer disposable medical gloves, goggles, disposable hats, disposable protective clothing, and disposable shoe covers.” The next sentence reads: “It is recommended that cabin crew members wear disposable diapers and avoid using the lavatories barring special circumstances to avoid infection risks.”

Lavatory on board the A330neo.

Other advice for the flights includes dividing the cabin into “clean area, buffer zone, passenger sitting area and quarantine area,” separated by disposable curtains. The last three rows should be designated as an emergency quarantine area, said CAAC.

While such advice may seem dramatic, and perhaps funny, it’s no secret that lavatories can be the germiest place on an airplane. In August, a woman traveling from Italy to South Korea contracted coronavirus during her trip. Investigators named a visit to the bathroom, the only place where she didn’t wear an N95 mask, as the possible source of her infection.

Japanese airline ANA announced earlier this year that it was testing out a prototype of a new hands-free lavatory door. Meanwhile, Boeing successfully applied for a patent on a “self-cleaning lavatory” that would use UV light to clean 99.9% of bathroom germs after every use.

Airlines have insisted that it is safe to fly during the pandemic, partly thanks to the hospital-grade air filters on planes, but some researchers say it isn’t yet clear to conclude there’s minimal risk. Some cases have documented transmission on flights when passengers wore masks and sat far apart.

Featured image: China Eastern Airlines. Photo: Liam Funnell