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Yes, airline ventilation policies vary from carrier to carrier

Now that passengers can fly without wearing a mask, viewers have new questions about air quality on planes.

WASHINGTON — Back in April, a federal judge ruled that masks were no longer required for transit and airlines quickly ditched the rule. 

Now that passengers can fly without wearing a mask there are new questions about air quality on planes. The air circulation system is on while a plane’s in the air, but questions have been raised about what happens during boarding and deplaning. 


Is the air ventilation system turned on when airline passengers are boarding and disembarking?


There are no federal rules and it varies from carrier to carrier.



The FAA says air carriers are not required to have air ventilation on during boarding or disembarking. The agency said most airplanes rely on shore power while on the ground, meaning the cabin door is open and fresh filtered air is piped in by equipment under the plane.

According to the FAA, most U.S. commercial airplanes use High-Efficiency Particulate (HEPA) filters, which remove 99.97% of particulate material. The International Air Transport Association says air filters can remove very small particles, such as bacteria and viruses. Virtually all viruses and bacteria are removed, even the most difficult particles in the range of 0.1 to 0.3 micron are filtered out with an efficiency level of 99.995%.

The Verify team also checked with Boeing, one of the largest airplane manufacturers. Boeing said its carriers can maintain total ventilation while planes are at the gate and recommends using the airflow system when idling, before boarding and exiting. But when it comes to when those systems are on, ALPA says it’s unaware of any FAA guidance and says it varies from airline to airline.

Our team reached out to several airlines to see what policies they have in place. 

"We can confirm that our aircraft are equipped with HEPA air filters, similar to technology found in hospitals," Southwest Airlines said in a statement to the Verify team. "Additionally, it is Southwest’s policy to operate with the cabin air fans turned on at all times when customers are onboard, both on the ground and during the flight, which directs air through the HEPA filtration system."

American Airlines said their fleets "keep recirculation fans on for all normal operations with passengers onboard per published procedures.”

“While the exact system varies depending on the aircraft, multiple systems provide fresh air during boarding," United Airlines said. 

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