Ask the Captain: How is air filtered in airplane lavatories to prevent spreading coronavirus?

Hearing that planes have filters in the HVAC is reassuring, but what about the small confined space in the toilet? How is that air filtered? I am afraid of contracting the coronavirus from the previous user.

– Nervous flyer

The air in the lavatory is continually changed, as it is in the cabin. 

Modern toilets in aircraft use a vacuum system to move the waste from the lavatory to the holding tank, as a result when flushed, the vacuum system pulls air in. Additionally, there is fresh air continually pumped into the lavatory via one or more air vents. 

The small size of the lavatories means that the quantity of air is not large, making it easier to exchange.  

Airlines are addressing cleaning lavatory surfaces, too. 

If an aircraft is having serious mechanical issues in flight that may result in not making it to an airport, how much information is given to the passengers as to the condition of the aircraft?

– Dave

The pilots take care of the issue first. If a diversion is necessary, we explain in general about the problem and the need for the diversion. 

In the extremely unlikely situation, such as an onboard fire that could not be contained and an off-airport landing is being considered, the pilot would brief the flight attendants and then the passengers. This gives the flight attendants time to prepare the cabin and passengers for evacuation once the airplane comes to a stop.

Going into great detail about the exact nature of the problem can cause confusion for most passengers. The important message is to listen to the flight attendants and follow their instructions. 

John Cox is a retired airline captain with US Airways and runs his own aviation safety consulting company, Safety Operating Systems.

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