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The Key to Safe Airflow for Planes Before Takeoff

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Airflow limits coronavirus transmission inside an airplane. So what happens if the air isn’t flowing?

There are rare times when air circulation is off and passengers are on board, and experts say they may be dangerous, though masks offer additional protection.

As crowds return to the skies and cabins again get more packed, it’s important for passengers to pay attention to the temperature and noise of the cabin. If it’s unusually quiet and the air feels stuffy, you should avoid taking masks off, even for a sip of coffee or water, and complain to flight attendants quickly.

I found myself in this situation on my first flight of 2021, a March trip on American Airlines . We were sitting for what turned out to be about a 20-minute delay for an air-conditioning repair, and the cabin grew warm and musty. Nothing was coming out of the air gasper—that nozzle next to your overhead light. People started fanning themselves even though it was 11 a.m.

I asked a flight attendant if she could ask the pilots to turn on air circulation. She replied that the ground crew “didn’t hook up the yellow tube.” I pointed out that ventilation is very important these days; the woman in the seat next to me chimed in that she was uncomfortable, too.

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