by Donald Wood
Last updated: 10:06 AM ET, Fri October 9, 2020
Updated health and safety protocols may be the talk of the commercial aviation industry, but aircraft manufacturers were dismissive at the idea of plexiglass partitions being added between seats on planes.
During a recent International Air Transport Association (IATA) webinar, officials from Airbus, Boeing and Embraer said they were no longer investing in the development of plexiglass partitions and do not recommend them.
An Airbus official said the safety devices could reduce airflow in the cabin, which inhibits the industrial-grade filtration systems installed on planes. The partitions would also add to the cleaning workload for airline employees.
In addition, aviation safety authorities voiced concerns about the impact the plexiglass partitions would have on emergency evacuations and the ability of passengers to reach for oxygen masks when needed.
"There are a lot of things that have to be considered even when adding something as simple as a shield between seats," Boeing's Confident Travel Initiative engineering director Dan Freeman said during the webinar.
While manufacturers are abandoning all long-term plans for plexiglass partitions between seats, new data from a Harvard study shows that disinfecting plane cabins is a key part of a multi-layered public health risk-reduction strategy.
While contaminated surfaces account for less than 10 percent of COVID-19 transmission risk in certain settings, the study found that diligent cleaning protocols, combined with a number of other strategies, offer significant protection for air travelers.
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