Is Air Travel Safe During COVID-19? Here’s What the Research Shows

Concerns over safe air travel during the COVID-19 pandemic have caused many to put a hold on their travel plans. A recent study shows that risk of infection on an airplane is unlikely, and in fact, it’s almost impossible. 

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Air Travel Safety By The Numbers

IATA (International Air Transit Association), the industry authority for all things travel, has released a study regarding those that have contracted COVID-19 on an airplane. In 2020, including both probable and confirmed cases, just 44 have contracted the virus on an aircraft out of 1.2 billion passengers.

Air travel safety in large airports
Airport terminal

That’s one infection per 27 million passengers flown. The study concedes that up to 90% of infections go unreported which could potentially increase the odds to one in 2.7 million but that’s unconfirmed at this stage.

To put that number in perspective, air travel has long been considered the safest way to travel, but your chances of dying in an airplane crash are one in 11 million. Passengers are 2.5x less likely to contract COVID-19 (with a 99% chance of surviving it) than they are to die onboard.

The study dates back to the beginning of 2020 before Coronavirus protocols were in place following guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC.)

More Likely To Be Struck by Lighting, Become Saint

With chances so low, how does air travel safety during COVID-19 compare to other rare events? Here are some stats:


Nothing in life is without risks. There are many other components to flying than simply sitting on the plane including getting to and from the airport, interacting with check-in staff, security, gates, and restaurants. Unless you’re flying private, you’re likely to encounter one of these areas which do have elevated risk.

However, air travel in and of itself is incredibly safe even more so from a COVID-19 perspective.

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