What Is Aircraft Cabin Air Quality?

Aircraft cabin air quality is the measure of the safety and breathability of the air inside an aircraft. Maintaining good air quality ensures the health and comfort of passengers and crew on board. Aircraft cabin air is typically a mix of fresh outside air and recirculated air from within the cabin. The recirculated air is filtered to remove dust, pollen, bacteria and other contaminants. The temperature and humidity are also regulated to provide a comfortable environment for passengers.

Aircraft cabin air quality has become a hot topic in recent years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has raised many questions about the safety of air travel, particularly in regards to HVAC systems on commercial airplanes.

Why Does Air Need to Be Controlled Inside an Aircraft Cabin?

As modern-day airplanes reach their cruising altitude (between 30,000 and 40,000 feet), the amount of oxygen in the outside air rapidly decreases. Flying at such high altitudes without mechanical regulation of the air inside the cabin would cause a gradual onset of lightheadedness and fainting.

At high altitudes the air pressure is lower than at sea level. This means there is less oxygen in the air than the human brain requires to function properly. The condition in which parts of the body are deprived of air is known as hypoxia, and it can lead to confusion, dizziness and difficulty concentrating. Sufferers will ultimately lose consciousness and experience fatal injuries.

To overcome this issue, aircraft cabins are pressurized, meaning the air pressure in the cabin is higher than the outside air pressure, allowing passengers and crew to breathe comfortably at high altitudes.

How Is Pressurized Aircraft Cabin Air Cleaned?

High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) Filters

High-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters remove airborne particles such as dust, pollen and bacteria from the air. The removal of these pollutants reduces the risk of passengers and crew members becoming ill due to airborne contaminants.

Activated Carbon Filters

Activated carbon filters are used in aircraft cabins to remove odors, smoke and other airborne contaminants from the air. They also help to reduce the amount of dust and other particles that can cause allergies or respiratory problems. The filters also help reduce the amount of noise in the cabin, making it more comfortable for passengers.

Ultraviolet Germicidal Irradiation (UVGI)

Ultraviolet germicidal irradiation (UVGI) reduces the spread of airborne pathogens and other contaminants. UVGI systems emit ultraviolet light, although other systems utilize visible light, which is absorbed by the DNA of microorganisms, damaging their genetic material and preventing them from reproducing. This helps to reduce the risk of passengers and crew members becoming ill due to airborne pathogens.

There are multiple ways to implement UVGI. In home HVAC systems, lights can be placed within ductwork. This is more difficult in aircraft with limited space and strict regulations, but some companies have developed specialized UV light systems that can be used on cabin surfaces when passengers have disembarked.


Ionizers are used in aircraft cabins to reduce the volume of airborne particles. They work by releasing negative ions into the air which attach to the pollutant particles and make them heavier. The heavier particles then fall out of the air or get caught by special filters within ductwork. This helps to reduce allergens and other contaminants in the air, making it easier for passengers and crew to breathe.

Tips on How to Stay Healthy When Flying

Although commercial and private airlines go to great lengths to supply their passengers and crew members with clean air, individual passengers can still take additional steps to protect themselves from cabin air pollutants:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Use hand sanitizer when soap and water are not available.
  • Avoid touching your face, eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Wear a face mask when traveling on an aircraft to help protect yourself from airborne germs and viruses
  • Bring your own snacks and drinks to avoid contact with shared food items on the plane.
  • Disinfect frequently touched surfaces such as armrests, tray tables, seatbelts, etc., with disinfectant wipes before use.
  • Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids throughout the flight. Good hydration may help keep your immune system strong and healthy.
  • If you can, consider flying private or charter instead of on commercial airlines to limit your exposure to other passengers in the cabin and when waiting in long lines at security checkpoints or baggage claim areas. Alternatively, you can try to book flights during airport downtimes (like not on busy travel days or prime traveling times).

Take Advantage of Innovative Cabin Solutions from Rosen Aviation

With our cutting-edge technology and skilled team of experts, you can rest assured that your aircraft will be outfitted with the best and most innovative cabin solutions available. From custom cabin displays to advanced entertainment systems, Rosen Aviation has the perfect solution for your cabin IFE needs.

To learn more, call us at 1-888-668-4955.