“Though we cannot guarantee that all customers will be seated next to an unoccupied seat, based on historically low travel demand and the implementation of our various social distancing measures, that is the likely outcome,” reads the section on social distancing. “People on this plane are scared/shocked.”, Dr. Weiss, an associate professor at the University of California San Francisco’s Cardiovascular Research Institute, had just spent two weeks volunteering at New York-Presbyterian Hospital during the COVID-19 crisis. Air Canada. Here’s. Through Jan. 6, 2021, Alaska is blocking middle seats. “Why would you choose to be crammed into a tube with other people? Airlines could minimize that risk by leaving open the middle seat, but airlines including United and American refuse to do so. Risks are lower in flights that are not full.”. The result is fewer planes in the air, at the same time there has been an uptick in travelers passing through TSA checkpoints in recent weeks. On April 22, United announced with great fanfare that it would begin blocking middle seats in all aircraft cabins in an effort to promote social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic. ... United Airlines. Airline Seating And Mask COVID-19 Policies “We’re automatically blocking middle seats to give you enough space on board,” said the email. “I wouldn’t get on another airplane for a very long time, unless I absolutely had to.”, I’m always looking for new ways to travel better, smarter, deeper and cheaper, and spend a lot of time watching trends at the intersection of travel and technology. As he was signing out of his last shift at the hospital on Friday night, Weiss says he told a group of physicians that he was actually more nervous about getting on an airplane than walking into a COVID ICU. Additionally, as we noted just a few days ago, the director of the CDC has lamented a move by the carrier to resume filling its middle seats again, something it had briefly paused since the world is, you know, in the midst of a pandemic. But will COVID-19 spell the end of the dreaded middle seat? Still, the elevated risk profile is why we noted a moment ago the displeasure from CDC director Robert Redfield, who expressed “substantial disappointment” with American Airlines for this change in middle seat policy (American switched back to booking middle seats again earlier this month). You may opt-out by, Dr. Weiss, an associate professor at the University of California San Francisco’s Cardiovascular Research Institute, had just spent two weeks volunteering at New York-Presbyterian Hospital during the COVID-19 crisis. “I think people are smart,” says Weiss. Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and Southwest Airlines have all made temporary changes to help stop the potential spread of COVID-19 in the skies. TSA Reality Check: Air Travel Was Plummeting Before States Started Locking Down, CDC: White House Proposal For Airport Temperature Checks Is Not A Reliable COVID-19 Detection Strategy, I don’t see a time in the near future or middle future when that would change,” he says. © 2021 Forbes Media LLC. Hawaiian Airlines will continue to block middle seats through Dec. 15. Frontier Airlines … These U.S. airlines are still blocking seats in the name of social distancing. Digging into the paper itself, the research proposes that your risk of contracting the coronavirus on a full plane flight, with no middle seat-blocking, is about 1 in 4,300, compared to a 1 in 7,700 chance of contracting the virus on a plane that keeps middle seats in open. “I wouldn’t get on another airplane for a very long time, unless I absolutely had to.”, EY & Citi On The Importance Of Resilience And Innovation, Impact 50: Investors Seeking Profit — And Pushing For Change. “I am with a group of 25 nurses and doctors who have been working in NYC hospitals for the past 2-4 weeks. New research argues that your chance of catching the coronavirus on a flight that's full (which carriers like American Airlines have switched back to, having resumed the sale of middle seats) is now roughly double what it was when middle seats were still being blocked. Andy is a reporter in Memphis who also contributes to outlets like Fast Company and The Guardian. On aircraft without any middle seats: We will block the selection of one aisle of seats on smaller aircraft. Gordon “Butch” Stewart Changed The Way The World Went On Vacation, Hawaii: Kauai Launches Two Ways For Travelers To Avoid Quarantine, 2021 Luxury Hotel Openings, Live Abroad Inexpensively, Emirates’ New Business Class And More, 5 Reasons To Stay At This Family-Friendly New York Resort, Finest Artisan Food And Drink Products Now Available From New Online Marketplace. The COVID-19 page on United’s website offers more watered-down language. Plans for a post-COVID … “My colleagues who came out a month ago said their flights were completely empty.”. Those are all the steps that scientists have recommended that we take.”. Parties of 3+ can continue selecting seats together. Josh Earnest, who previously worked in the Obama White House before getting the job with United, argued that blocking middle seats is “a PR strategy. The research comes from Arnold Barnett, a management science professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who decided to bring some academic rigor to bear in studying the effect of packing planes with people again while the coronavirus is still rampaging across the US. “I’ve heard from a lot of people who have been doing these medical trips that the number of passengers on the plane has been increasing pretty steadily over the past month,” he says. A couple don't accept medical exemptions. What’s more, a new study has found that airlines like American (along with United) which have resumed booking passengers in middle seats are roughly doubling your chance of catching the coronavirus on that flight. Will avoid the others when I return to flying https://t.co/CpRbBpcysQ, — Rachna Sizemore Heizer (@RachnaHeizer) July 3, 2020. The company said it will limit capacity on flights, though. When he’s not writing about technology, he can be found hunched protectively over his burgeoning collection of vinyl, as well as nursing his Whovianism and bingeing on a variety of TV shows you probably don’t like. Vendée Globe Sailing Race Rounds Cape Horn For Final Sprint To France, Skiers Want To Ski, And Ski Resorts Are Obliging, travelers passing through TSA checkpoints. But the reality is that air travel in the United States is down more than 90 percent due to the coronavirus pandemic, and airlines have chopped routes and canceled thousands of flights. But United’s Earnest told CNN (via Inc.) that “keeping the seat next to you open is not going to make a material difference.” American Airlines and United Airlines have resumed selling potentially packed flights, now that they’ve reversed their temporary coronavirus-inspired policy of blocking middle seats. During boarding, some passengers began to argue with those assigned to the middle seat. ... JetBlue Airways, Southwest Airlines, Spirit Airlines and United Airlines, among … All Rights Reserved, This is a BETA experience. Traditionally, fall is a good time to look for … The airline is so far the only U.S. airline to commit to blocking middle seats through the first quarter of 2021. Some airlines will not fill the middle seat during this pandemic, though others are now booking all seats. United is currently exploring options to make COVID-19 testing more accessible for travelers. We are coming home,” he tweeted. 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According to United, these new procedures would remain in effect through May 31. As a. I’m always looking for new ways to travel better, smarter, deeper and cheaper, and spend a lot of time watching trends at the intersection of travel and technology. American Airlines, the world's largest carrier disclosed Friday that "customers may notice that flights are booked to capacity starting July 1." Follow me on Instagram (@suzannekelleher) and Flipboard (@SRKelleher). United Airlines is one airline company that plans to sell middle seats on its fight amid the coronavirus pandemic and calls for social distancing. (Delta, Spirit and JetBlue are exceptions, pledging to block middle seats at least for a while.) Sweden Ushers In Pandemic Law, Announces New Restrictions, The Hon. United Airlines makes no commitment to blocking off middle seats, but says it will notify customers when “their flight is fairly full” to give them the option to change it. Empty middle seats? Many major airlines claim to be taking steps to ensure social distancing, whether by blocking middle seats or capping the number of seats sold per flight. “I am with a group of 25 nurses and doctors who have been working in NYC hospitals for the past 2-4 weeks. If you factor in a 1% mortality rate (actually 1.6% of cases here where I live are resulting in deaths, but 1% is being used to keep the math simple), this paper suggests that your risk of both contracting and dying from coronavirus as a result of flying on a full plane flight is something like 1 in 430,000. Airline COVID-19 safety rules, compared: Masks, middle seats - … These estimates, Barnett goes on to note, imply that the mortality risks associated with the coronavirus for uninfected travelers are higher than your risk of dying in a plane crash. As travelers begin to consider flying again, airlines are eager to offer reassurance. The final word: As long as everyone is wearing a mask on a flight with blocked middle seats, I’m choosing that flight every single time over the alternative (of a packed flight). Fewer people, period, would seem to be the less-risky option, since those flights include fewer people who could potentially have the coronavirus. On aircraft with middle seats: We will block the selection of middle seats in Delta Premium Select, Delta Comfort+ and Main Cabin for parties of 1-2. Master List Of U.S. Masks: "For those over the age of 2, wearing a face covering while travelling is a mandatory requirement issued by Transport Canada.All non-compliance cases will be reported to Transport Canada, and could result in a financial penalty." Yesterday, Weiss tweeted a selfie that shows his jam-packed plane, with every seat on the 737 aircraft filled. “I thought that when people on that plane started figuring out what was going on — that they were there with 25 medical personnel who had just spent the last two to four weeks in an ICU — that some of them would have gone crazy. During this pandemic, you may want to know which airlines are leaving middle seats empty and which ones may pack your plane. Other measures “These poor people who had tickets to sit in the middle seat didn’t want to be there anyway, and they were getting yelled at by people who were sitting on the aisle or at the window,” says Weiss. (If you’re interested in learning what Weiss’s experience was like, his journal entries are in his Twitter feed. Note that the airline does not guarantee a blocked seat, however, as the carrier may choose to use those seats to accommodate passengers on previously canceled flights. United Airlines, for one, is offering to let fliers on crowded flights rebook. His argument is that even if you block middle seats, passengers are still within 6 feet of other passengers (in front of you and behind, for example, or across the aisle for those that both have aisle seats). This is an airline that has punished even its First Class passengers by reducing legroom. “Recent research results and data generate the approximation that, when all coach seats are full on a US jet aircraft, the risk of contracting Covid-19 from a nearby passenger is currently about 1 in 7,000,” an abstract of his research paper reads. As a longtime freelance travel writer, I’ve contributed hundreds of articles to Conde Nast Traveler, CNN Travel, Travel + Leisure, Afar, Reader's Digest, TripSavvy, Parade, NBCNews.com, Good Housekeeping, Parents, Parenting, Esquire, Newsweek, The Boston Globe and scores of other outlets. Travelers from San Francisco (SFO) to Hawaii can register for a rapid test at the airport with Dignity Health-GoHealth Urgent Care on the same day as their flight or do a … That’s not a safety strategy.”. After initially pausing ticket sales for middle seats in April, American Airlines didn't even pretend to want to keep the policy in place until COVID-19 cases declined. The carrier has also said it would also use back-to-front boarding to give passengers more space as they walk onto a plane, and process all seating upgrades at the airport to better control crowding. Low fares may not be enough to lure many travelers. “The problem with what happened yesterday, is I think there was such a disconnect between people’s expectations and the reality.”, Weiss understands why Americans are reluctant to fly in today’s environment, and says he would not fly for a leisure trip. (If you’re interested in learning what Weiss’s experience was like, his journal entries are in his Twitter feed. United Airlines According to the current policy outlined on United’s website, the airline has limited passengers from booking middle seats “where … Departure times: Gates close 30 minutes before departure (previously 15 minutes). “I don’t see a time in the near future or middle future when that would change,” he says. Alicia Lopez … Redfield made his comment during a recent Senate Health Committee hearing, responding to a question from Sen. Bernie Sanders by lamenting: “I can tell you that when they announced that the other day, obviously there was substantial disappointment with American Airlines. Airlines and medical experts spar over whether or not the middle seat should be blocked. Weiss faults United for a major communication fail that gave an expectation of more space between passengers. MileagePlus members. Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley blasts American Airlines for packing the middle seats on his flight https://t.co/aFztuLslQW pic.twitter.com/AT60VCa6aV, — CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) July 4, 2020, Well I know which airlines I intend to support going forward – Delta, Jet Blue and Hawaiian – the 3 US airlines that continue to block the middle seat – putting safety ahead of profits. Passenger loads. Some airlines ban passengers from future flights if they refuse to wear a mask. Alaska Airlines has promised to block middle seats (except when large families need … On April 22, United announced with great fanfare that it would begin blocking middle seats in all aircraft cabins in an effort to promote social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic. United Airlines. Its own pilots have complained about its planes, and in 2019, American Airlines reportedly bumped more passengers off of overbooked flights than all other US airlines combined. We compare airlines' COVID-19 policies. A number of the airlines had decided to keep the middle seat (open).”, Also earlier this month, the chief communications officer for United Airlines (which, like American, has switched back to the possibility of booking full flights) tried to explain its own reversal. On United Airlines ... United flyers may experience a fuller flight as the company is not longer adopting a blocked-out seat or open middle seat policy. That combination means that many flights are full. U.K. International Arrivals Will Require Test - Too Little, Too Late? Since early April, United Airlines has been providing free round-trip flights to New York City for medical volunteers who wanted to help fight against the COVID-19 crisis. Do you like those odds? CDC: 6 Questions To Ask Before You Travel Within The U.S. The number of passengers caught Weiss a bit off-guard, since his flight to New York two weeks ago was only about a third full. “I think United got lucky that this particular group of people did not go apeshit,” he says. Even before the coronavirus pandemic, I (and lots of other frequent flyers I know) tended to avoid American Airlines like the plague, for reasons that included the horribly cramped seats. Middle seats: The airline is spreading customers around "to … It also notes that the airline will limit seat selections “where available.”. Alaska Airlines will have masks available for passengers who forget theirs at home. Still, Weiss had his PPE. United Airlines recently announced that it was making some middle seats unavailable for passengers to select. “Under the middle seat empty policy, that risk falls to about 1 in 14,000. Which U.S. Airlines Are Blocking Middle Seats During COVID-19 Johnny Jet November 14, 2020 I travel to 20+ countries a year sharing my firsthand knowledge of reward travel, travel credit card deals, travel tips and more. But you don’t have to take my word for it — here’s an Inc. magazine article ranting about this same thing, titled “American Airlines Just Sneakily Scheduled Its Most Insanely Cramped Plane for a Really, Really Long Flight.”. Many airlines are pushing out updated health and safety policies for those who still can and want or need to travel. Here’s Day One.). They’re even better when the middle seats are blocked (just 1 in 770,000). I’m never flying American Airlines again. That this particular group of 25 nurses and doctors who have been working in NYC for. Aisle of seats on smaller aircraft at home empty policy, that risk by leaving open the united airlines covid middle seat seat policy... 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