European regulators are preparing to advise airlines to space passengers throughout the cabin on flights which are not full, having formally directed carriers to ensure aircraft are fully disinfected after each flight from high-risk coronavirus areas.

Operators should also equip aircraft with at least one universal precaution kit – used to deal with communicable diseases – in order to protect crew members assisting individuals suspected of carrying the infection.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency has made the recommendations in safety directives aimed at civil aviation authorities as well as third-country operators authorised to fly to European Union destinations.

“We are aware that many airlines have already enhanced their cleaning procedures, and member states have put additional measures into place,” says EASA executive director Patrick Ky.

“Standardisation at European level will make these measures even more efficient.”

Disinfection should involve substances verified for aviation use, containing 62-71% of ethanol, 0.5% hydrogen peroxide or 0.1% sodium hypochlorite.

EASA says operators should be permitted to use a different disinfection frequency, based on risk assessments taking into account operational circumstances and the duration of the substances used, but aircraft should be fully cleaned no later than 24h after departure from high-risk airports.

It has yet to publish a full list of high-risk airports, although it covers all airports in China, Iran and South Korea. EASA will add specific European airports in a 16 March update.

EASA says it is developing the list based on information from the World Health Organization and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, as well as other reputable public health institutes.