Question & Answer

Does flying increase the risk of catching or spreading the COVID-19 virus?

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  • During the COVID-19 pandemic, restrictions on travel were put in place as a possible way to control the spread of the virus. These travel restrictions included restrictions on flying.
  • Studies have taken place to investigate if flying specifically increases the risk of contracting or spreading the COVID-19 virus. Differences in how these studies were done and the differences in their design and methods make it difficult to interpret the results.
  • It is also difficult to determine precisely when someone got infected e,g. before travel, at the airport, on the flight or elsewhere.
  • However, the absence of evidence is not the same as evidence of absence and national and international guidelines advise using standard prevention measures when travelling.
  • The World Health Organization recommends that travellers remain vigilant for signs and symptoms of COVID-19 and adhere to public health and social measures. These include avoiding crowded and poorly ventilated spaces, following good respiratory etiquette (such as covering coughs and sneezes), respecting physical distancing and wearing a mask as appropriate.

Things to Remember

  • Beware of claims based on a single study. Ask if there are other studies that examine the same question and ideally, a careful summary of all the relevant studies.
  • Whenever possible, use up-to-date careful summaries (systematic reviews) of fair comparisons to inform decisions


  • Lead Researcher: Dr Claire Beecher, HRB-Trials Methodology Research Network & Evidence Synthesis Ireland, University of Galway.
  • Reviewed by: Professor Declan Devane, School of Nursing and Midwifery, HRB-Trials Methodology Research Network, Evidence Synthesis Ireland & Cochrane Ireland, University of Galway.
  • Evidence Advisor: Dr Maureen Kelly, College of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences University of Galway.
  • Evidence Advisor: Anne Daly, PPI Ignite, University of Galway.
  • Journalist Advisor: Dr Claire O’Connell, Contributor, The Irish Times.

Conflict of Interest Statement: The authors have no financial or other conflicts of interest for this health claim summary