Researchers at ASU say they've figured out a way to limit the spread of viruses on commercial airliners and at the same time, save airlines millions, just by changing the way people board.

For the past two years, researchers at ASU have been studying the way airlines board passengers onto packed flights and how to better mitigate the risks if there were another Ebola outbreak, like the one we saw in Africa, back in 2014.

"During that time there were lots of calls for potentially banning flights," said ASU researcher Matthew Scotch, PhD.

That alone can cost an airline millions of dollars.

This got Scotch and fellow researchers looking into ways to keep that from ever having to happen, just by coming up with a new approach to boarding, deplaning and getting passengers to their destination, safely.

"What we wanted to do is look at other ways that could potentially mitigate spread of the virus without having to ban flights," said Scotch.

They found that randomized and two-zone boarding lessened the risk greatly when compared to the three-zone boarding commonly practiced today.

In fact, they found there was a 27% reduction in risk, and if airlines chose to fly more planes with fewer people on them during an Ebola outbreak, there would be another 13% in risk reduction.

"We are saying no you don't have to cancel the flight, but on the other hand, you can simply change or tweak these policies and get a huge difference in the way this infection is spread," said ASU researcher Anuj Mybayi.

Now ASU researchers Mybayi, Scotch and Rob Pahle, along with Sirish Namilae from Embry Riddle Aeronautical University and Ashok Srinivasan from Florida State University plan to expand their research to include other viruses, like the flu, and simply use the same parameters and settings from this research.

"We're not telling the airlines or the FAA to do anything. What we want to do is give them the tools, give them the information that will allow them to make the decisions," said Scotch.

Bottom line, based on their extensive research, if you're afraid of catching something, the best way to mitigate that risk, choose random or two-zone boarding and don't cluster up outside the gate, waiting for take off.

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