Travel News Air Travel Flying Is Still the Safest Form of Travel—As Long as You Wear Your Mask A new study shows wearing a mask onboard greatly limits the rate of transmission Written by Ryan Smith Instagram Ryan is a New York City-based freelance writer who writes about travel, style, and food & wine. He regularly travels the globe in search of noteworthy hotels, sights, and other trends in food, wine, and culture. Tripsavvy's Editorial Guidelines Ryan Smith Updated 10/16/20 Fact-Checked by Reviewed on 10/16/20 Jillian Dara Instagram Jillian Dara is a freelance travel writer and fact checker. Her work has appeared in Travel + Leisure, USA Today 10Best, Michelin Guide, Hemispheres, DuJour, and Jetsetter. About TripSavvy Fact-Checking Jillian Dara Share Pin Email narvikk / Getty Images As travel slowly becomes a part of normal life again through the form of road trips and weekend excursions, the idea of getting on a plane in close proximity with strangers for a few hours still sounds like too much of a risk for many. A new study released this week, however, shows the risk of transmission is "virtually non-existent" during air travel—so long as every passenger wears a mask. The study, conducted by the Department of Defense in a partnership with United Airlines, found that when all passengers are seated with a mask on, "only 0.003 percent of particles actually made their way into another passenger's breathing zone." The results of this study have not yet been peer-reviewed. The study comprised around 300 tests using mannequins equipped with aerosol generators that mimic normal breathing and coughing. These generators released 180 million particles—equivalent to the number produced by thousands of coughs—with the mannequin's mask both on and off. The plane was equipped with more than 40 sensors able to detect the droplets, which represented other passengers that could theoretically come in contact with the particles. The researchers found that wearing a mask limits the rate of transmission when a passenger is seated. Researchers did not attempt to replicate an infected person standing up or moving throughout a cabin, further spreading the droplets around, and it's important to note that the study did not account for time spent eating and drinking, which is when most passengers would remove their masks anyway. "I'm not standing here telling people that I know exactly what they should do," said Josh Earnest, United Airline's chief communication officer. "What I am telling people is if you are inclined to travel or thinking about air travel, there is a reason today, based on this independent study, that you can feel confident that you can travel safely." This study reflects earlier studies that found the airflow inside an airplane helps minimize risk. Commercial airplanes are equipped with HEPA filters, which capture and eliminate 99.97 percent of airborne particles, substantially reducing the risk of viral spread. The air inside of airline cabins changes over around 10 times an hour, giving them higher air quality than that of a normal building. Experts say travelers should remain vigilant about wearing a mask throughout their travel, including airport security and throughout the terminal, and not just while on the plane. You're More Likely to Get Struck by Lightning than Contract COVID-19 on a Plane Was this page helpful? Thanks for letting us know! Share Pin Email Tell us why! Submit In the Aviation Industry, the LGBTQ+ Experience Just Keeps Getting Better 15 Travelers Talk About Traveling to Countries Unsafe for LGBTQ+ People A New CDC Report Indicates Blocking Middle Seats Reduces COVID-19 Transmission What It’s Like to Fly Halfway Around the World During the Pandemic Air Travel Is Back—Here's What You Need to Know About Flying This Summer The 13 Best Cloth Face Masks of 2021 The CDC's New COVID-19 Guidance for Activities Is Great News for Travelers Flight Attendants Are Contracting COVID-19 at a Lower Rate than the Public Southwest Airlines Will Stop Blocking Middle Seats On Its Flights in December Could the Air You Breathe on Airplanes Actually Be Making You Sick? You're More Likely to Get Struck by Lightning than Contract COVID-19 on a Plane Things You Didn't Know About In-flight Air Quality It's Been a Wild Few Weeks for U.S. Cruises, But We Have Good News I Flew America's Brand New Low-Cost Airline. Here's What It's Like The CDC Won't Require COVID-19 Testing for U.S. Domestic Travel. Here's Why Will I Need a COVID-19 Vaccine to Travel? Airlines Say "Maybe"