We’re flying to Disney World; COVID be darned! So, what’s the safest spot on the plane?

toy story plane inside
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Despite the recent surge in COVID-19 cases in the United States from the omicron variant of the coronavirus, the majority of Americans intend to proceed with their travel plans.

Amongst Disney fans, the thought of canceling a trip to the Most Magical Place on Earth can be not only heart-wrenching, but gut-wrenching as well when you consider that for many families, a trip to Disney World is one for which the family has saved and planned for months and sometimes, even years.

Other Disney fan families are looking forward to their first trip back to the parks at Walt Disney World since they reopened in July 2020, and they have no intention of canceling or even rescheduling a trip.

And when you consider that we are right smack dab in the middle of Disney World’s “Most Magical Celebration on Earth” in honor of the Resort’s 50th anniversary, you can understand why it’s even harder for a Disney fan and his or her family to consider canceling.

But, as with most scenarios in which COVID is roaring, there still remains an inherent risk of becoming infected with one of the variants of the coronavirus, though at this time, the omicron variant is the most prevalent. Many are willing to take that risk–some don’t flinch at facing that risk head-on.

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So, if you and your family have decided to proceed with your Disney World trip–and you’re flying–what can you do to protect yourself and be as cautious as possible? Well, the usual things come to mind first: frequent hand-washing with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds (seriously, did we need a global pandemic to teach us this?), a face covering that fits well over the mouth AND the nose (do we still have to say this?), and don’t travel if you’re sick; even if you don’t feel awful–think of others, please.

But what about the airplane trip to the parks? Even if you’ve taken your precautions, even if you’re not sick, even if you’re vaccinated (yes, people, omicron and other variants are still infecting fully-vaccinated individuals), even if you’ve done your due diligence, you are still at the mercy of others on the airplane with you. So if you must fly, which is the safest seat on the plane as it relates to your best chances for not becoming the next infected person?

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“Spacing is an obvious challenge on airplanes, especially when the planes are filled at or near capacity over the holiday season,” says Sheldon Jacobson, with the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. “So anything that can be done to reduce risk is a smart choice for everybody.”

According to U. S. News & World Report, Jacobson and his colleagues conducted a study using data about aerosol spread (the way in which COVID is spread) so that they could better understand which seats on an airplane are best for reducing the risk of that spread.

They found that the seating arrangements with the least risk of transmission allowed for leaving middle seats open and skipping rows of seats in between passengers. But obviously, carriers like Delta Air Lines, American Airlines, and Southwest Airlines aren’t profitable when an airplane is half-empty. So what’s the next best option?

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According to Jacobson’s study, an airplane’s last rows offer the lowest risk of transmission simply because fewer passengers are seated behind those rows.

The study also found that if families are traveling, it’s best that they are seated together.

“Traveler groups often are split up, but if airlines can prioritize keeping the members near each other, then you group those dependent risks together and reduce the overall risk of a transmission on the plane,” explains the study’s co-author, Ian Ludden.

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The conductors of the study stressed the importance of taking precautions by wearing a mask while on the airplane. It’s federal law that passengers wear a mask aboard the plane anyway, according to TSA.gov.

“Your individual risk of contracting or spreading the virus depends on how good that barrier is and whether you remove it,” Jacobson said.

Another way to increase your protection and decrease your risk? Open up the air vents above your seat as well.

Jacobson says to do things that will decrease your risk, but understand that there’s no way to eliminate all risk, (especially in an airplane).

“Risk reduction is possible,” Jacobson said, “But risk cannot be completely eliminated.”

About Becky Burkett

Becky's from the Lone Star State and has been writing since she was 10 and encountered her first Disney Park when she was 11. It was love at first Main Street Electrical Parade. Joy is blank lined journals, 0.7 mm pens, and all things Walt, Woody and Buzz, PIXAR, Imagineering, Sleeping Beauty (make it blue!), Disney Parks history and EPCOT. At Disney World, you'll find her croonin' with the birdies at the Enchanted Tiki Room or hangin' with Woody and the gang at Toy Story Land. If you can dream, you really can do it!