How will super long flights affect health?

Airlines are planning to start operating 19-20-hour flights between three Australian cities and London or New York. Before that, they’re running test flights to see how the long flights affect the health of passengers and crew.

Experts will study how lighting, food and drink, movement, sleep patterns, and inflight entertainment affect people’s health, wellbeing, and body clock, according to an October 18, 2019 CNN article.

During very long flights, “exposures that are taxing on the body will still be present — but for longer times,” said Eileen McNeely, director of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health Sustainability and Health Initiative for NetPositive Enterprise (SHINE) and an instructor in the Department of Environmental Health. Passengers could face health impacts such as hypoxia, dehydration, muscle aches, and jetlag, as well as exposure to loud noise, cosmic radiation, and possible cabin air contaminants. “These conditions pose a greater threat for vulnerable passengers with underlying diseases that already cause these problems,” she said.

Although higher cabin pressures, increased humidity, and quieter engines may help offset potentially negative health impacts on long flights, McNeely still advised passengers to get up and move about the cabin frequently and drink lots of fluids—except alcohol, which causes dehydration. She also suggested that people over 60 with cardiopulmonary disease check with their doctor before a long flight to see if they need supplemental oxygen.

Read the CNN article: At 19 hours, it’s the world’s longest flight. But how will the human body cope?