Good afternoon and thank you for flying with us. We want to make sure you are as comfortable as possible during the flight, so please let us know – how’s the air quality? Is the temperature ok? Do we need to adjust the lighting? Thanks again for flying Indoor Comfort Airlines.
This is the message millions of U.S. and international airline passengers could be hearing in the near future thanks to a study funded by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) and conducted by Battelle, a Columbus, Ohio-based global services and technology enterprise.
The research project will examine the link between aircraft cabin air and health symptoms and discomfort experienced by passengers and crew members.
“The aircraft cabin is a challenging microenvironment for maintaining the health, comfort and well-being of passengers and crew,” said Jeff Myers, principal investigator for Battelle. “Space is limited, conditions can feel cramped, the outside environment is extreme, and travelers may experience anxiety over loss of control over their situation and environment. Through this study, we will determine the causes of passenger and crew discomfort and use that information to make flights more comfortable.”
More than 600 million passengers fly U.S. carriers each year, with thousands of crew members spending much of their working time in densely packed airliner cabins.
During flights, passengers and crew can experience noise, reduced atmospheric pressure, poor lighting, vibration, low relative humidity, variable temperature and potential air quality degradation.
The study, set to begin early this year, will be carried out on several international and domestic commercial airlines. It also has the support of the Federal Aviation Administration’s Air Transportation Center of Excellence for Airliner Cabin Environment Research.
Results from the research could be used by manufacturers to modify aircraft to improve air quality or by airline companies to make more low-impact changes, such as adjustment of lighting.
As part of the research, passengers on 160 flights will be surveyed about their perceptions of air quality on the flight. The flights will vary in distance, lengths and time zones.
Following the surveys, the top causes for statistical variation (such as the most complaints by time zone) will be ranked. Scientists then will travel on those flights, using on-board monitoring instruments to measure carbon monoxide and dioxide, respirable particles, and volatile organic compounds among others.
The research is the second phase of a $1.8 million research project. In the first phase in 2004, passengers and crew surveyed on four flights out of Cincinnati, Salt Lake City, Chicago and Seattle indicated that the overall cabin air quality was adequate.
ASHRAE, founded in 1894, is an international organization of 55,000 persons. ASHRAE, headquartered in Atlanta, is working toward its mission of advancing heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration to serve humanity and promote a sustainable world through research, standards writing, publishing, and continuing education.