Either blocking seats on planes for social distancing is important, or it isn’t. American Airlines will no longer block seats for passengers (claiming it isn’t necessary) but will continue to block seats for flight attendants (for their protection).
American Airlines Will Start Filling All Their Middle Seats This Week
Starting Wednesday American Airlines says they will no longer limit the number of seats they sell on each flight. They had been capping flights at 85% capacity, which blocks some middle seats so that customers would feel more comfortable flying in the current environment. (Delta, Southwest, and JetBlue continue to limit sales so that middle seats do not have to be occupied.)
The airline takes the position – correctly – that flights aren’t a significant transmission vector for SARS-CoV-2. And that there’s no true social distancing on planes anyway, a blocked middle seat means 18 inches of space between passengers to the side, it doesn’t mean ‘six feet’.
Seat Blocking Continues To Allow Flight Attendants To Social Distance
American Airlines does actually continue to limit sales a little bit on many aircraft, not so passengers get empty seats next to them, but to provide social distancing for flight attendants. I shared new capacity limits for each aircraft in American’s fleet, effective July 1.
American still limits seating by flight attendant jump seats where there aren’t solo jump seats and flight attendants would otherwise have to sit beside each other.
Normally 14 CFR 121.391(d) requires flight attendants to be located as close as possible to floor level exits, and that they must be at these duty stations during taxi. However the FAA temporarily offered an exemption to allow greater flight attendant distancing on board.
Is Distancing Important, Or Isn’t It?
Proactive steps have been taken to allow flight attendants to be a few inches farther away from each other, but not so much for passengers.
They also continue to limit onboard alcohol, ostensibly so that flight attendants have less contact with passengers and don’t have to sell drinks. Of course drinks used to be free in American’s Main Cabin Extra, and those are gone too. And on many flights you have to ask for free drinks now even in first class. Here’s how American decided to stop serving inflight meals in first class on most domestic flightsUpdate: American Airlines offers this by way of explanation,
American is blocking a small number of seats due to aft facing jump seats in the cabin that are in close proximity to the customer, who is forward facing.
This is specifically on the A321 fleet (four configurations) and the Embraer ERJ140/145.
On the CRJ700/900 regional fleet, one or two seats are blocked in the last row due to the folding jump seat that folds out for taxi, takeoff and landing.