A new study from Delta and its partners purports to show the efficacy of pre-flight COVID-19 testing.

Study shows benefits of pre-flight testing

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A new study from Delta and its partners purports to show the efficacy of pre-flight COVID-19 testing.

Pre-flight testing significantly decreases rate of active COVID-19 infections on board aircraft. This is the headline takeway of a study conducted by the Georgia Department of Health, Mayo Clinic and Delta Airlines.

The peer-reviewed study, published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings, examined real-world customer data on Delta’s COVID-tested flight corridors between New York-JFK, Atlanta and Italy’s Fiumicino International Airport.

“We are going to live with COVID-19 variants for some time. This real-world data – not simulation models – is what governments around the world can use as a blueprint for requiring vaccinations and testing instead of quarantines to re-open borders for international travel,” explained Dr. Henry Ting, Delta’s Chief Health Officer. “Air travel risk varies depending on case rates and vaccination rates at the origin and destination, masking and other factors. But the data collected from this study show that the routine use of a single molecular test within 72 hours before international travel for unvaccinated individuals significantly mitigates the risk of COVID-19 exposure and transmission during airline travel.”

Dr. Ting added that our real-world experience and testing protocol demonstrate that a very low risk of infection transmission is possible, confirming previous simulation models of viral transmission on planes.

The six-month study began in December 2020 with the trans-Atlantic COVID-19 testing program that enabled quarantine-free entry into Italy and allowed teams to review and model various testing strategies for feasibility, false-positive rates and case detection rates.

While the average community infection prevalence rate was high during the study, of the 9,853 potential passengers who underwent testing in the US, 4 (0.04%) individuals tested positive by both the rapid antigen and confirmatory molecular tests.

According to the study’s authors, a single molecular test performed within 72 hours of departure can decrease the rate of active infection onboard a commercial aircraft to a level that is several orders of magnitude below active community infection rates.

In another outcome, testing on arrival in Italy identified a single (0.01%) additional infected individual, leading the study to postulate that during a period of high COVID-19 infection burden within the US, a single molecular test performed within 72 hours of departure lead to a low percentage of airline passengers identified with the virus on rapid antigen testing during travel. This data may inform future recommendations for testing during travel and eliminate the need for quarantine after travel.

“When you couple the extremely low infection rate on board a COVID-19-tested flight with the layers of protection on board including mandatory masking and hospital-grade air filtration, the risk of transmission is less than one in one million between the US and the UK Kingdom, for example,” Dr. Ting added. “These numbers will improve further as vaccination rates increase and new cases decrease worldwide.”

Delta is outfitting nearly all of its domestic mainline fleet with best-in-class high-speed Wi-Fi by the end of 2022.

CDC study promotes benefits of vacant middle seat

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Delta is outfitting nearly all of its domestic mainline fleet with best-in-class high-speed Wi-Fi by the end of 2022.

A study conducted jointly between the CDC and Kansas State University (KSU) has concluded that physical distancing of passengers, including through policies such as middle seat vacancy, could provide additional reductions in SARS-CoV-2 exposure risk.

The study used bacteriophage MS2 virus as a surrogate for airborne SARS-CoV-2 and modelled the relationship between SARS-CoV-2 exposure and aircraft seating proximity, including full occupancy and vacant middle seat occupancy scenarios.

Compared with exposures in full occupancy scenarios, relative exposure in vacant middle seat scenarios was reduced by 23% to 57% depending upon the modeling approach. A 23% exposure reduction was observed for a single passenger who was in the same row and two seats away from the SARS-COV-2 source, rather than in an adjacent middle seat. When quantifying exposure reduction to a full 120-passenger cabin rather than to a single person, exposure reductions ranging from 35.0% to 39.4% were predicted. A 57% exposure reduction was observed under the vacant middle seat condition in a scenario involving a three-row section that contained a mix of SARS-CoV-2 sources and other passengers. Based on this laboratory model, a vacant middle seat reduces risk for exposure to SARS-CoV-2 from nearby passengers. These data suggest that increasing physical distance between passengers and lowering passenger density could help reduce potential COVID-19 exposures during air travel.

However, the study does not account for the effects of passengers wearing masks on the aerosol dispersion behaviour.

It is also important to recognise that the current study addresses only exposure and not transmission.

Quick Split seat divider from Vision Systems

Vision Systems’ Quick-Split gains certification

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Quick Split seat divider from Vision Systems

Quick-Split, the roller separation solution for aircraft passenger seats, from Vision Systems, has received EASA certification.

Vision Systems’ partner Aerotec performed the EASA certification program and approval on this product. “Quick-Split is a reliable product, easy to operate. It has been designed and qualified to ensure compliance with latest EASA safety standards,” stated Thomas Paquien, Program Manager, Deputy Head of Airworthiness, Aerotec.

Based on Vision Systems’ cockpit shading system technology, Quick-Split aims at avoiding contact and possible transmission of viruses between passengers.

Quick-Split comprises a thin and soft transparent film, placed at each seat that also includes two handles, one on each side, so that passengers don’t have to touch the same one.

The system follows the inclination of the seat back when reclined and can easily be folded for family travel for instance.

According to Vision Systems, Quick-Split eliminates the issue of leaving an empty seat between two passengers. This plug and play, system fixed on the armrest and behind the seat back, is quick and easy to mount and dismantle without any modification of the existing seat and is adaptable to all types of armrest. It is also claimed to not degrade any part of the seat once removed.

Return On Investment, says Vision Systems, is very quick, estimated at seven flights for a narrow-body aircraft, meaning that in one or two days, Quick-Split is fully amortised.

ACA Managing Director Fabio Gamba.

Industry bodies collaborate on guidance for in-flight services ‎

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ACA Managing Director Fabio Gamba.

The International Flight Services Association (IFSA) and ‎the Airline Catering Association (ACA) have announced the development of a new guidance that leads and supports the airline and airline ‎catering industries worldwide as they continue to take actions in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. ‎

The ACA/IFSA COVID-19 Guideline introduces several guiding principles which provide direction on managing the COVID-19 pandemic and to support safe business ‎‎operations ‎including at airports, airlines, kitchens, and aircrafts.‎ The document takes a pragmatic approach in implementation by highlighting and giving ‎guidance on the ways in which ‎individual locations and situations can best be re-engineered to ‎meet the updated health safety ‎standards.‎ This document, which supersedes the previous guidelines released shortly after the start of the pandemic, ‎serves to guide ‎mitigation based on risk assessment for catering kitchens ‎and ‎airline in-flight services globally. ‎‎

“IFSA remains dedicated to the global advancement of the airline catering industry. This collaboration with ACA strengthens the airline catering industry and equips for safe global business resumption,” said IFSA Executive Director Lauren Costello.

“This industry has shown time and again how adaptable and resilient it can be. And we are glad we could, together with our colleagues from IFSA, bring our contribution with this very comprehensive guidance which is publicly available,” stated ACA Managing Director Fabio Gamba (pictured).

IFSA and ACA remain informed on applicable governmental ‎guidance relative to COVID-19 as the situation changes frequently and directives may ‎vary in each ‎country/state/province. ‎IFSA and ACA have made the guidelines available online, free of charge.

Editor’s Comment: Connectivity and Comfort

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In 2020, the dialogue around in-flight experience was dominated by the urgent need for safety and security. PPE, air filters, screens, the middle seat debate, new seating concepts… The question on all passengers’ lips was “Is it safe to fly?” and the industry found itself having to fight to get passengers back onboard rather than focus on refining their in-flight experience.

Despite the war against COVID-19 being far from over, 2021 has begun with a renewed focus on connectivity and comfort. This week, Delta Air Lines finalised a deal with high-speed Wi-Fi provider Viasat, evidence that the airline is still focused on securing “a future rooted in deepened customer interactions with technology” (Ekrem Dimbiloglu, Director of Brand Experience – In-flight Entertainment and Wi-Fi, Delta Air Lines). Adding Viasat’s next-generation satellite technology to its fleet will give Delta more options to modernise how customers stay connected and enjoy content in-flight.

Continuing with connectivity, via Bluebox Aviation Systems’ integration of W-IFE into the Airbus Open Software Platform, Airbus has taken another step towards realising its ambitious “Airbus Connected Experience”, whereby the Internet of Things will be brought into the aircraft cabin, paving the way for a new personalised passenger experience.

On the comfort side, Sichuan Airlines has selected Honeywell to fit its A320s out with auxiliary power units which provide electrical power and air conditioning whilst a plane is on the ground, ensuring that comfort becomes a part of a passenger’s experience as soon as they board the aircraft. Further, ASL Airlines Ireland’s ATR 72-600 is now flying with Liebherr-Aerospace’s new integrated air management system, which improves onboard comfort for both passengers and crew.

It is clear, then, that the in-flight industry is ready and determined to move on. Will 2021 be a year of recovery and resurgence? The commitment is there, but only time will tell.

MGR SafeWall from MGR Foamtex

MGR Foamtex enjoy successful testing of MGRSafeWall against SARS-CoV-2 Virus

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MGR SafeWall from MGR Foamtex

Laboratory testing has proven the efficacy of the anti-microbial MGRSafeWall product protection system from MGR Foamtex against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

MGRSafeWall uses the latest Biomaster silver-ion technology and was tested in Europe to ISO 18184 protocols using real aircraft cabin products to demonstrate efficacy of 96.8%.

The ability to complete commercial testing with SARS-CoV-2 is a very recent development as testing with the actual virus was previously only permitted in government facilities.

It is believed this is the first time real aircraft cabin materials have been tested with actual SARS-CoV-2, as until now, all testing used a substitute envelope virus as testing with the actual virus was previously only permitted in government facilities.

Biomaster testing has shown it is effective against a wide range of viral, bacterial and fungal threats.

MGRSafeWall can be used on both porous and non-porous cabin surfaces, either for new production or as an in-service treatment.

Cathay Pacific is providing free COVID insurance to passengers until the end of February

Cathay Pacific providing COVID-19 insurance until February

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Cathay Pacific is providing free COVID insurance to passengers until the end of February

Cathay Pacific is collaborating with AXA General Insurance Hong Kong Limited to provide free COVID-19 coverage to all its passengers.

Passengers booking and taking a flight with Cathay Pacific from 7 December 2020 to 28 February 2021 will be covered for medical expenses related to a COVID-19 diagnosis incurred whilst overseas.

Cathay Pacific free COVID-19 insurance is automatically applied and covers COVID-19 PCR tests and hospitalisation if it becomes necessary. Coverage for medical expenses related to COVID-19 extends to up to US$200,000.

Customers will receive an allowance of US$100 per day per passenger for up to 14 days due to COVID-19 to help them during periods of unforeseen and mandatory quarantine.

Cathay Pacific will ensure that affected customers, as well as their travel companions and any children they may be travelling with, get home safe.

Customers can call AXA’s 24/7 Emergency Assistance hotline on +852 2863 5785, or send a WhatsApp message to +852 2863 5784, no matter the time.

Customers are covered for a period of 30 days starting from the date of their departure, or until they return to their home, whichever is earliest.

Delta wants to work with work black-owned companies to strengthen its health measures

Delta pitches for supplier diversity

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Delta wants to work with work black-owned companies to strengthen its health measures

Delta’s Mike Medeiros, Vice President – Global Cleanliness, is seeking out minority-owned businesses to support its development of a world-class cleanliness standard.

In an appeal to business leaders in the areas of UV, surface disinfectants, autonomous vehicles and artificial intelligence, Medeiros said: “We need your ideas, your creativity, your entrepreneurial spirit,” Medeiros told the suppliers. “The innovation and resilience that minority-owned businesses bring to the table make you the optimal partners for Delta to build a key area of our business around. Supporting diverse suppliers isn’t just our social responsibility; it’s a smart business strategy that drives results.”

Delta CEO Ed Bastian recently highlighted the airline’s focus on supporting Black-owned businesses as part of Delta’s COVID-19 recovery strategy. His commitments include:

  • Generating wealth in the Black community by further diversifying Delta’s supply chain and doubling spending with Black-owned businesses by 2025, while seeking diverse business partners for Delta’s COVID-19 recovery strategy.
  • Requiring each bidding and request-for-proposal process for new partnerships to include participation from minority-owned businesses, while introducing micro-development programs to identify and grow diverse businesses in underrepresented areas of our supply chain.
  • Evaluating every Delta contract to ensure suppliers are held accountable for anti-racism policies within their organisations.
Lufhansa antigen testing

Lufthansa launches free COVID-19 antigen rapid tests on selected routes in Germany

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Lufhansa antigen testing

Lufthansa has launched COVID-19 antigen rapid tests on selected routes between Munich and Hamburg.

In partnership with Munich and Hamburg airports, as well as biotech company Centogene and the Medicover Group’s medical care centre, MVZ Martinsried, Lufthansa is offering its customers the opportunity to be tested free of charge before departure on two daily flights as of 12 November. Those who do not wish to be tested will be transferred to an alternative flight at no additional cost.

Upon completion, customers will receive their test results within 30 to 60 minutes and only on presentation of a negative test will the boarding pass be activated and access to the gate be granted. Alternatively, passengers can present a negative PCR test taken no latest than 48 hours at departure. Lufthansa takes care of the entire testing procedure with no hidden or extra costs for the passenger. Passengers are simply required to register in advance and allow a little more time before departure.

“With our test strategy, we are pursuing the goal of using the data obtained to gain important insights into the use of rapid tests. Successful testing of entire flights can be the key to revitalising international air traffic,” says Christina Foerster, Lufthansa Group Executive Board Member for Customer, IT & Corporate Responsibility.

JetBlue + Northwell Direct conducting a COVID-19 test

JetBlue adds Northwell Direct to COVID-19 response

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JetBlue + Northwell Direct conducting a COVID-19 test

Northwell Direct is to provide JetBlue with a comprehensive set of long-term COVID-19 services and programs to support its crewmembers (employees) across JetBlue’s operation.

The customised set of solutions will support JetBlue as it considers testing approaches for its teams in New York City, clinical concierge services for crewmembers, and consulting and advisory services for JetBlue’s leadership.

The suite of services and the ongoing evolution of the program will be collaboratively designed by clinical experts at Northwell Health and JetBlue’s leadership, and are based on science and the latest medical knowledge around COVID-19 and the specific needs of the company’s crewmembers. Tests conducted as part of any JetBlue programs will be processed by Northwell Health Labs.

In addition, the program allows JetBlue to offer tri-state crewmembers 24/7 access to expert guidance and assistance with questions or concerns about the virus. These clinical concierge services provided by Northwell Health Solutions, Northwell’s care management arm, if appropriate, will also be able to provide fast and seamless navigation to care. These crewmembers will also have access to Northwell Health’s COVID Ambulatory Resource Support (CARES) program, which offers hospital-level care in the safety and comfort of home.

The arrangement also provides JetBlue leadership with consulting and advisory services from Northwell Health clinical leaders to ensure corporate strategies are evidence-based and to take advantage of the latest advances in the fight against the new coronavirus. The multi-layered set of protective strategies complement JetBlue’s extensive Safety from the Ground Up program, which, along with maintaining healthy crewmembers, focuses on travel flexibility, clean air and surfaces, and more space with fewer touchpoints.

“Keeping our crewmembers healthy is an important pillar of our Safety from the Ground Up program,” said Joanna Geraghty, President and Chief Operating Officer, JetBlue. “Our crewmembers are doing an exceptional job in these challenging times and are executing our Safety from the Ground Up program every day to make sure the JetBlue experience is as safe as it can be.”