The Air Inside the Airplane: Myths Busted. Facts Stated.

Been coughing your lungs out after a flight? Or maybe sneezing up a storm on your vacation?

It’s easy to connect the dots with germs inside the airplane cabin. Directing the blame on the air inside airplanes is a natural consequence. You are sharing the same air with numerous other passengers inside a closed vessel, after all.

As obvious as this conclusion seems, it is a prejudiced and erroneous assumption. Your thought process is biased with several myths regarding airplane cabin air quality that have been recirculated for ages. And it’s our job to debunk those myths.

Let’s get cracking with the five most predominant misconceptions concerning air inside airplanes.

1. “The Same Cabin Air Is Recycled Endlessly” – Absolutely Not

Every two to three minutes, fresh air from outside the plane replaces the cabin air. This air enters the engines at -65 degrees through complex vents. Temperature and pressure are raised. After that, it is passed through a control valve and cooled by an air conditioning system, before being released into the cabin.

So, you are not inhaling the air your co-passengers are exhaling. Rest assured.

Although, this is not true for 100% of the cabin air. Only about 50% of the air inside airplanes is fresh external air. The rest is recirculated air from within the cabin.

In economy class, this normally provides between 15 to 20 cubic feet of total air supply per minute, per person. Combined with the continued cabin air circulation (20 to 30 air changes per hour), the total air supply is essentially sterile and particle-free.

2. “Air Inside Airplanes Is Brimming with Germs” – No

50% of the air is recycled indeed, but that doesn’t mean it is polluted. This is thanks to the high-efficiency air filtration system used in planes.

Airplanes use HEPA filters.

High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters cycle the air every few minutes, removing 99.97% of airborne particles measuring 0.3μm in diameter. Modern HEPA technology has the potential of destroying 100% of all bacteria and viruses.

Since HEPA is a hospital-grade germ-trapping filter, it keeps the air as sterile as that in a hospital operating room. That’s way cleaner than in offices, schools, and other indoor settings.

As cabin air flows from top to bottom, filtered, recirculated cabin air and fresh air are combined. So, every breath you take is in fully renewed air. No question of germs.

3. “All Airplanes Must Have Air Filters, So I’m Safe” – You Are Not

HEPA filters are a comparatively modern innovation. The majority of mainline jets in the U. S. have them, as do all other large commercial aircraft, which use a recirculation type of cabin air system.

But not all commercial aircraft are fitted with HEPA filters.

Some older models are equipped with low-efficiency filters. And if you’re on a short regional flight, chances are, your plane might not have a HEPA filter. So, your safety boils down to hygienic practices and wearing masks on such flights.

4. “There Is No Way of Finding Out If My Airplane Has Air Filters” – Wrong Again

Finding out if your flight has high-efficiency air filters is pretty easy, actually.

Here are some ways to verify:

  • If you check the seat map for your flight (for both new bookings and existing reservations), you will find out what kind of plane is operating the flight. From there on, it takes a Google search to verify whether that aircraft has HEPA filters or not.
  • As a rule of thumb, you can be confident that any airplane with 70 or more seats will have HEPA filters installed, unless you are flying with an airline that uses extremely old aircraft.
  • On Google Flights, you can figure out the type of aircraft you’ll be on. Just click on the drop-down menu for each flight segment and all the information you need is right at your fingertips.

5. “I Can’t Fall Sick from Inhaling Cabin Air” – Technically You Can

Seems counterintuitive with what we’ve said so far? It won’t once we explain.

The air inside airplanes being absolutely germ-free and you falling sick are two unrelated events. It’s true that you won’t become ill through any fault of the airlines. This is because of the elaborate air filtration system in place that we have already touched upon.

Also, the aircraft is divided into ventilation segments of three to seven rows. You share air only with passengers in your segment. So, airlines are doing everything they can to supply fresh, germ-free air to you.

But what if the passenger right next to you is sick? No HEPA filter or air circulation system can protect you if someone sneezes right onto your face, or on to any surface you might touch.

The odds of flying with a sick person in the same ventilation segment are incalculable. Neither the airlines can predict it, nor can you. So, you can never be sure of averting sickness on a plane, much like in any other form of public transportation.

The Only Cause for Concern, and The Remedy

Since we have seen that despite all of the precautions taken by the airlines, you can contract an illness, flying stress-free is not an option. You ought to take matters into your own hands to reduce your chance of illness.

Here are some options that can safeguard you; both from falling ill, and in case you do:

1. Protection and Hygienic Practices

Even if airborne viruses and germ-laden droplets reach you, protective gear can keep them from entering your body. And hygienic practices can ensure they never reach you in the first place.

Consider the following every time you board a flight:

  • Wear a mask at all times while you’re inside the airport and airplane.
  • Sanitize your hands at regular intervals.
  • Avoid contacting high-touch surfaces like seat handles and lavatory areas.
  • Don’t touch your face during the flight. Sanitize first if you intend to do so.
  • Be extra cautious while you’re eating or drinking. Don’t touch the tray table if possible.

2. Cautionary Measures

Staying alert can protect you much like healthy behavior. Performing the following cautionary measures will significantly lower your chances of sickness:

  • If you spot a sick person, maintain your distance.
  • If the person next to you is sick, request the flight attendant allow you to change your seat.
  • Book the earliest flight of the day. That way, you’re not at risk of contracting diseases from passengers on the previous flight through surface contamination.
  • Fly with airlines that are known for enforcing strict health and safety guidelines. If the plane is frequently cleaned, germs won’t spread as much.

3. Health Insurance

Despite all your attempts at ensuring safety, you might still fall sick. When you land at your dream destination for a much-awaited trip, a cold or flu can ruin everything. Especially your budget, since healthcare in foreign places can be dauntingly expensive.

So, what do you do to quickly regain your health without breaking the bank?

You get travel health insurance or travel insurance.

As long as you have insurance covering your finances, you can get treated at the best hospitals without fewer worries about the bill. All you need to do is find the right insurance plan for you.

Here are some suggestions that can help you do that:

  • Visit Insubuy. Thousands of travelers like you purchase their insurance from here. 700+ 5-star reviews are testimony to Insubuy’s professional services.
  • Compare multiple plans, and choose one that best fits your needs. Get expert advice from Insubuy’s insurance advisers if you are unsure.
  • Purchase the insurance online right from the website, and save the e-policy. Insubuy’s first-rate support team will take it from there should you need any assistance.

You Can Breathe Easy

The air inside airplanes isn’t that dangerous as you might have thought. The real danger is lingering around your fellow passengers. But that shouldn’t deter you from a relaxing vacation in the Bahamas or elsewhere. As long as you closely follow our health and insurance guidelines, you have little to fear on a plane. So, take that holiday you’ve been dreaming of.

How useful was this post?

Click on a star to rate it!

We are sorry that this post was not useful for you!

Let us improve this post!

Tell us how we can improve this post?


For visitors, travel, student and other international travel medical insurance.

Visit or call +1 (866) INSUBUY or +1 (972) 985-4400