MIAMI – The risk of infection from COVID-19 on a flight is “possible but highly unlikely” according to Kimmo Ketola, Finnair’s (AY) Medical Director.

Ketola states via an AY press release that during 2020, there were fewer than 50 SARS-CoV-2 infections caught onboard a plane. At the same time, there were 1.2 billion air travelers globally. “So even if the real number of cases was tenfold, the probability of contracting COVID-19 remains extremely small.”

Ketola also points out that there are multiple reasons so few infections have been traced back to air travel, which range from voluntary measures like good passenger behavior to mandated hygiene measures such as mask-wearing.

Finnair is one of several airlines that requires ground crew to keep an eye out for possible COVID-19 symptoms at the departure gate. Airlines have also made adjustments to their inflight service, from serving smaller meals to handing out sanitization kits to passengers.

A Finnair Airbus A319-112 taxis to the gate. Photo: Alberto Cucini @ac_avphoto

Safe to Fly during the Pandemic


As per the AY release, studies suggest that having only one carry-on item further reduces contact between cabin crew and passengers. Therefore, several airlines have also recommended passengers to travel light.

In addition, many countries require proof of a negative test, and in some places proof of vaccination, before allowing passengers to travel. This further reduces the chances of picking up COVID-19 while flying.


Featured image: Finnair OH-LTS Airbus A330-302. Photo: Kochan Kleps/Airways