As the coronavirus pandemic rages on and infections keep soaring, airlines and transportation officials around the world have been desperate to find ways to keep passengers and crew safe in the air.
China’s Civil Aviation Administration has issued new advice on how cabin crew can keep away from the virus.
Advice on PPE unremarkably recommends attendants on flights to and from high-risk destinations to wear masks, goggles and disposable protective clothing.
Then more remarkably it goes on to recommend “that cabin crew members wear disposable diapers and avoid using the lavatories except in special circumstances to avoid infection risks”.
While this may be sound practical thinking and not to be sniffed at, it has raised some eyebrows.
As for flight crew, they are advised to wear masks and goggles but not diapers, perhaps because doing so might undermine the authority of the captain in the imagination of the passengers.
It’s no secret that apart from the floor and folding tray tables, the lavatories can be the germiest place on an airplane.
In August, a woman travelling from Italy to South Korea contracted Covid-19 during her flight. Her visit to one of the onboard toilets was the only place where she didn’t wear a mask and was determined to be the probable source of her infection.
Airplane toilet design is always a hot topic but the pandemic has challenged airlines to come up with new solutions to the problem of less hygienic passengers.
The Japanese are famous for their space age lavatory innovations and carrier ANA announced earlier this year that it was testing out a prototype of a new hands-free lavatory door.
Boeing has successfully applied for a patent on a “self-cleaning lavatory” that would use ultraviolet light to clean 99.9% of bathroom germs after every use.
Airlines insist it is safe to fly during the pandemic, partly thanks to the hospital-grade air filters on planes, but some researchers say that isn’t yet proven as cases of coronavirus transmission have occurred where passengers wore masks and sat far apart.
China’s domestic aviation market was hard hit at the start of the outbreak. But it has recovered to close to pre-pandemic levels, while regions such as Europe and the US have thousands of planes still grounded as they struggle to bring Covid-19 under control.