Air Transport Association (ATA) President and CEO James C. May testified before the Subcommittee on Aviation today, addressing the misperception that the aircraft cabin environment contributes to the spread of diseases, such as severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).
“We take the threat of SARS seriously,” May said, “but I am concerned that the public is not getting a clear picture of the real risk. Medical expert say that SARS is transmitted primarily through close contact with an obviously ill person, but the press feeds the anxiety about SARS by tying it to an underlying fear of flying. The recent Washington Post headline “The Scare Up There” is a prime example.”
The airline industry takes its role of assisting public health officials in tracking and controlling the SARS virus very seriously. From the beginning, the industry has worked closely with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to respond to this public health crisis. ATA members are following or exceeding CDC recommendations for dealing with SARS. Out of the more than 10,000 flights departing from SARS-affected areas over the past three months, only four flights have been identified where the disease may have been transmitted on board - according the World Health Organization (the United Nations specialized agency for health).
“Study after study has concluded that the cabin environment does not contribute to the spread of disease,” May said. “In fact, a report by the National Research Council found evidence that concentrations of microorganisms in aircraft cabins are no higher, and in many cases is lower than in other public spaces.”
The Air Transport Association is the trade association for the leading U.S. airlines. ATA member airlines transport 95 percent of all passenger and cargo traffic in the United States.