American Airlines To Restart Booking Flights At Capacity As COVID-19 Cases Soar
In April this year, the airline began limiting flights to 85% capacity, often leaving the middle seats in aisles entirely free in order to ensure social distancing during the current outbreak.
However, while air travel is still down 80% compared to last year’s figures, more and more people are venturing onto planes. In a move that starkly contrasts most other aviation operators, American Airlines will begin filling its fleet starting July 1.
You can check out some of the recent packed flights in the news report below:
In a press release, American Airlines wrote: ‘As more people continue to travel, customers may notice that flights are booked to capacity starting July 1. American will continue to notify customers and allow them to move to more open flights when available, all without incurring any cost.’
It’s a similar policy to United Airlines, which originally said it was going to limit seat selections. However, according to ABC News, no capacity cap was ever put in place, nor were middle seats blocked from use. Instead, customers boarding busy flights were contacted 24 hours beforehand ‘so they can decide whether to adjust their plans before they arrive at the airport’.
Earlier in May, Nick Calio, head of the Airlines for America lobbying group, commented on capacity restrictions:
In the long term, that’s a business model that cannot be sustained. If it costs more to fly people from point A to point B, it’s a total money-losing proposition, which then means it’s a job-loss proposition.
Across the country, there’s been more than 128,000 deaths. A spokesperson for the Allied Pilots Association, the union that represents American Airlines’ pilots, told the Chicago Sun Times: ‘I can’t imagine a worse time to tell passengers that the airplanes they may be on will be completely full.’
Union spokesman Dennis Tajer echoed this sentiment, telling The Boston Globe:
[American Airlines CEO Doug Parker] is right that keeping social distancing on the airplane to six feet is impossible, but that doesn’t mean you surrender to it and throw the airplane out there with every seat filled. It’s just not what our passengers are looking for, or our workforce. This is the wrong decision at the wrong time.
American Airlines is putting other measures in place to fly safely; at check-in, customers will be asked to certify they’ve been free of COVID-19 symptoms for at least two weeks and a Travel Health Advisory Panel has been established to advise on extensive health and cleaning measures.
Face masks/coverings are also mandatory for staff and customers, barring any medical exemptions, echoing the rules of United Airlines, Delta Air Lines, JetBlue, and Southwest, the latter three of which are keeping middle seats free until at least the end of July.
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American Airlines Newsroom
The Boston Globe