Coronavirus: how to choose the safest seat on a plane

Sitting at the window and avoiding bathroom breaks could lower your chances of infection

As coronavirus continues to spread, which is the safest seat on a plane? 

If you're flying during the coronavirus crisis, you might want to pre-book a window seat.

Researchers say that sitting in a window seat on an aircraft is the safest choice to avoid coming into contact with infected passengers.

Staying in your seat and reducing how often you move around could also reduce your chances of infection.

Book a window seat

The best way to reduce your chance of infection when your travel is to sit at the window.

Once you have your window seat, you should stay put. Visiting the bathroom, taking items from your overhead luggage and walking around the cabin could further increase your risk of infection say scientists from Atlanta's Emory University.

In the 2018 study, university researchers observed how crew and passengers moved around aircraft cabins and how those movements affected the number of contact they had with other travellers.

They found that staying in your seat reduces the chances of coming into contact with the virus.

Reducing the number of times you get out of your seat could reduce your risk of transmitting coronavirus say scientists. 

It also discovered that people leaving their seat the most were typically those seated in aisle seats. These travellers consequently had a higher average number of contact with other passengers than those sitting by the window.

People sitting at the window were the least likely to get up during a flight.

The study also said that the risk of direct transmission to passengers on flights is low, so long as travellers are "not seated in close proximity to an infectious passenger".

The three-row rule

According to the World Health Organisation, contact with an infected person on an plane is defined as being seated within two rows of one another.

However, researchers at The New England Journal of Medicine found that a three-row rule was more accurate.

The safest places to sit on a plane to avoid direct contact with a person infected by coronavirus.

In its 2003 study, conducted after the severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) outbreak, researchers found that transmission was related to the physical proximity to an infected person. They recorded illness in travellers seated within three rows of fellow passengers with the Sars infection. Almost one third of travellers sat within three rows of an infected person contracted the disease.

The New England Journal of Medicine also stated that infection on a flight could also spread via "airborne, small-particle, or other remote transmission."

Scientists are still unclear on the how the Wuhan coronavirus is transmitted so cannot be sure what impact it will have on those  flying. 
Airport lock-down
With the new coronavirus having spread from China to at least 16 other countries, several airlines and airports around the world have introduced new measures to try to control its spread.

Most airports are now screening passengers for symptoms of coronavirus. Several airlines have also suspended flights to and from China until as late as March. Regional airlines Etihad and Emirates are operating normally, but Emirates said it was providing masks and hand sanitisers to all crew on flights to China. 

For more information, follow live updates on the coronavirus here