I know that in the movie they say "airplanes were a perfect delivery system", but.... yeah that doesn't actually seem plausible.

Pitt's character times the change from human to zombie as ten seconds, and the longest time mentioned in the movie is 10 min when he's at the Korean military base. Given that it has such a short incubation time how would it go global? I can't see zombies getting on planes in any situation short of the chaos happening in Israel. And even then the whole plane would change so quickly I think that any plane they did get on would go down before getting to its destination.

So again, how would the zombie virus - with an incubation time of 10 min or less (mostly shown as only 10 seconds!) - ever go global?

  • 4
    It isn't plausible, and none of the scientist characters noticed that fact. The movie simply didn't show that much respect for the intelligence of the audience. Someone decided that an incubation time measured in seconds would make for some cool scenes, and to hell with slow, subtle horror and logical coherence.
    – Beta
    Jun 25, 2014 at 2:06
  • This is just an example of how the movie completely ignored the internal logic of the book and replaced it with Hollywood movie logic instead.
    – user22478
    Jun 23, 2015 at 4:56

3 Answers 3


In the book, there were several ways the virus could spread:

  • Zombification was not always quick. A minor bite or scratch could incubate for days or weeks before symptoms appeared. It depended on how much virus was introduced to the body, and how close it was to a major blood vessel.

  • Organs for transplant were sometimes harvested from people infected by the zombie plague, and traded across the world. Organs might only contain trace amounts of the virus, so the recipient might not show symptoms for some time, and by then could have travelled again. In the book:

The virus reaches Brazil in a heart sent from China for transplant into a German patient, who doesn't care if his new heart comes from an executed Chinese prisoner.

  • People who thought their zombified families were still alive, and might be cured, would try to smuggle them across borders.

  • In addition to travelling by air, the virus could spread by sea. If an outbreak aboard a ship turned all the passengers and crew to zombies, the vessel could drift for a long time until it ran aground and the zombies waded ashore in search of prey.


In the World War Z book incubation time was variant. With the vast majority of people turning zombie in a very short time, while the a few rare individuals incubating the virus for a much longer time.

This was the case for Flight 575, which was unknowingly used to smuggle illegal immigrants from China to America or Europe. By the time the plane had landed, all its passengers had turned and they spilled out creating further infection.


If you listen to the story that they hear about the doctor that went to verify the death of a soldier and met who they thought was patient 0. This guy was supposedly "foaming at the mouth and oozing some kind of black tar". When he tried to bite the villagers they shot him. Then while the doctor is examining him he returns as a full zombie and attacks the doctor. After that, the doctor was able to contract the virus from the guy in the village and then travel back to the base before becoming a zombie and attacking his patients. This would indicate that the early version of the virus had a much longer incubation period. It was only after the virus evolved (as viruses often do) that it gained a much shorter incubation period. This I believe would make airplanes a plausible delivery system, assuming that there were multiple points of origin for the virus. Which I agree is unlikely unless it was manufactured and released intentionally.

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