Photo by Andrew Vaballero-Reynolds / AFP via Getty Images
launching the Confident Traveler Initiative to build consumer confidence about boarding a plane. That means, in part, the flying public will learn a lot about a topic they never knew about they cared about: air circulation in the aircraft cabin.
Boeing (ticker: BA) last week was named Mike Delaney, vice president of digital transformation at Boeing Commercial Airplanes, to lead the initiative. His work: To “minimize the health risks of air travel” in the Covid-19 world.
This is a big job. Airlines, airport operators and aviation regulators seek to set standards for the commercial air travel industry. Issues such as how and where to filter passenger temperatures – as well as what chemicals are acceptable for cleaning aircraft interiors – are all ready for debate.
The thief’s consensus among stakeholders feels scary. Part of Delaney’s work will be difficult. But he will also be tasked with educating the flying public about the technology that is part of every Boeing jet. Part of the job might be a little easier.
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All modern airplanes, for example, are equipped with high efficiency particulate air filters, or HEPA, which are 99.9% effective in removing particles, including viruses. And a lot of outside air passes through the filter, Jim Haas, Boeing’s commercial product development director, explained to Barron.
Haas is confident in cabin air quality. He has three points. First, the air entering the cabin is clean, from outside the jet and filtered. Second, the air flows vertically from the trash can to the floor. Air does not move from front to back – which, he said, limits the spread of airborne particles around the cabin. Third, the air inside the cabin is completely new, exchanged with the outside air, every two to three minutes.
Of course, he understands and advocates for better health measures. Masks, more hand washing, and more sanitation between flights will be a necessity for air travel in the future. What’s more, passengers might come equipped with their own disinfecting wipes to scrub the trays, seat belts, and armrests.
How quickly people will return to the plane is still a hot debate. Wall Street has not seen traffic return to the 2019 level for years. Industry insiders also predict a long road to recovery. Vertical Research Partners analyst Rob Stallard noted in a research report Thursday the International Air Transport Association, or IATA, predicting international travel would not reach levels 2019 until 2023 or 2024.
Nobody, it seems, expects quick recovery on the way. IATA head Alexandre de Juniac noted in a recent media briefing that many countries still have a two-week quarantine mandate for anyone entering from abroad. Fourteen days in a hotel room will destroy the desire for an international vacation. A more travel-friendly system needs to be worked on.
No one knows what the recovery will be like. And there are still many questions. But expanded health measures and consumer education can only help.
All the uncertainties – and the locking of Covid-19, and the remaining concerns about the safety of its 737 MAX jets – have hit Boeing stock. Stocks are down about 64% this year, far behind
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Write to Al Root at [email protected]