American to Sell Out Planes If It Can

Social distancing doesn't work on planes, airline says
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jun 26, 2020 5:02 PM CDT
American to Stop Blocking Out Seats
Passengers get off an American Airlines flight at Los Angeles International Airport in April.   (Vince Warburton via AP)

American Airlines will start booking flights to full capacity next week, ending any effort to promote social distancing on its planes while the US sets records for new reported cases of the coronavirus. American's move matches the policy of United Airlines but contrasts sharply with rivals that limit bookings to create space between passengers to minimize the risk of contagion, the AP reports. American said Friday that it will continue to notify customers if their flight is likely to be full, and let them change flights at no extra cost. The airline said it will also let passengers change seats on the plane if there is room and if they stay in the same cabin. Since April, American has limited bookings to about 85% of a plane's capacity by leaving about half the middle seats open. However, the airline will start selling every seat it can beginning next Wednesday.

Delta says it is capping seats at about 60% of capacity and Southwest at about 67%, both through Sept. 30. JetBlue says it will leave middle seats empty through July 31 unless the person is traveling with a passenger in an adjoining seat. United and American, however, argue that other steps—including stepped-up cleaning procedures and requiring all passengers to wear face coverings—eliminate the need to block seats. United CEO Scott Kirby has said social distancing is impossible on planes anyway, that even with empty middle seats, people are less than six feet away from each other. Photos and videos of full flights on American and United have drawn criticism. American announced the change deep into a press release mostly devoted to measures it is taking to clean planes and kill the virus. “As more people continue to travel, customers may notice that flights are booked to capacity starting July 1," the release said.

(More airline industry stories.)

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