United Airlines has released a video demonstrating how its high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filtration system works. In an attempt to reassure passengers around the spread of COVID-19, it has announced that air flow will be maximized on mainline aircraft during the entire boarding and deplaning process from 27 July.

The air conditioning and pressurization system works in combination with the HEPA filters to recirculate the air every two to three minutes by providing 50% HEPA filtered recirculated air mixed with 50% outside air. It removes 99.97% of particles – including viruses and bacteria - during both ground and air operations. United explains that on commercial aircraft, fresh air flows downward into the cabin from ceiling vents and exits the cabin at the floor and sidewalls. This helps to minimize front-to-back air movement and reduces the potential for spread of contaminants from people, such as those emitted through sneezing or coughing.

An empty United aircraft cabin
Air in the cabins is recirculated every two to three minutes © United Airlines

"The earlier we maximize air flow over our HEPA filtration system, the better for our crew and our customers," says Scott Kirby, United's CEO. "The quality of the air, combined with a strict mask policy and regularly disinfected surfaces, are the building blocks towards preventing the spread of COVID-19 on an airplane. We expect that air travel is not likely to get back to normal until we're closer to a widely administered vaccine – so we're in this for the long haul. And I am going to keep encouraging our team to explore and implement new ideas, new technologies, new policies and new procedures that better protect our customers and employees."

Lockdowns are easing globally as the planet adjusts to a new normal. Find out how COVID-19 is changing travel.

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