FLAG carrier Philippine Airlines (PAL) is easing traveler’s fears of COVID-19 infection by emphasizing that all of their aircraft are equipped with the “HEPA filters” that can capture the extremely tiny and highly contagious coronavirus.
“PAL has invested in installing the High Efficiency Particulate Air filters [HEPA] on all of our flights,” said Spokesman Cielo Villaluna, quoting the instructions of PAL President and COO Gilbert Santa Maria.
But do HEPA filters capture the coronavirus, which are extremely small?
According to available information, “HEPA filters [and even lower-grade filters like furnace filters] are incredibly effective at capturing smaller sized particles, such as the coronavirus.”
One online report claimed that, “If you’re living in a common house, or you’re working in an office or school with a large number of employees, turning on your air purifier can help filter out any virus-sized particles in the air, potentially reducing the chance of transmission. HEPA filters, in one pass, can be expected to filter out over 99 percent of the coronavirus.”
Meanwhile, PAL assured the flying public that preventive measures are in place besides the use of HEPA filters to protect passengers. Villaluna said, “with all the preventive measures in place, before and after a flight, we mitigate the risks with the use of high-potent disinfectants.” She said the “cabin, lavatories, cargo hold and even passenger’s baggage are sprayed before being loaded off the aircraft.”
PAL-issued headphones are cleaned with alcohol, inflight blankets are washed for 45 minutes in heated water of 100 degrees Celsius “and cooled for 15 minutes,” she added.
“Our crew wear masks and gloves [at specific phases of flight], and all of our flights are safe [from coronavirus],” Villaluna assured.
In a statement, PAL said it has performed the following to ensure that the deadly virus does not hitch a ride and infect their passengers in any of their aircraft:
- disinfection of the aircraft upon arrival;
- wearing of masks by the crew;
- temperature checks on passengers at points of departure on top of the thermal scanning done by the quarantine bureau upon arrival;
- distribution of forms so passengers may indicate travel history; and
- utilization of HEPA filters.
Villaluna said all of their flights are operating according to their scheduled destinations, “except flights to mainland China and to Special Administrative Regions Hong Kong and Macau.”
She said flights to South Korea have been reduced from 80 to 15 in March.
“We will determine if we will roll the reductions to South Korea beyond March, depending on the situation,” Villaluna said.