No More Blocked Middle Seats, Now American Airlines Flight Attendants Have To Sit Next To Each Other

American Airlines never truly blocked middle seats during the pandemic the way that Delta, Southwest, and Alaska did. However back in April, May and June they did place limits on the number of seats they’d sell on an aircraft. 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.

That policy went away over 10 months ago, and since then American Airlines passengers could expect all seats on a plane to be occupied – all the while Delta continued to offer empty middle seats to passengers until the end of last month.

The airline maintained that social distancing on board wasn’t necessary because of HEPA air filtration, downward air flow, cleaning regimens and masking. Yet they continued blocking some seats to maintain distance for flight attendants.

Flight attendants often shared with me that they were more concerned with distancing from each other, and avoiding talkative coworkers, than distancing from customers.

American limited seating by flight attendant jump seats where there aren’t solo jump seats and flight attendants would otherwise have to sit beside each other. Since May 1 American Airlines will assign these passenger seats if they need to.

Without offering beverages in coach, let alone food for sale, there hasn’t been much for flight attendants to do. So they’d often sit in these blocked seats throughout much of the flight.

That option will no longer be available on flights that are full. With beverage service returning to coach June 1 on American, there will be less downtime anyway.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. You mean they might actually have to… (To quote Maynard G Krebs)

  2. Right . . . HEPA filters and downward air flow. Those horrific farts that permeate the cabin for 10 rows must come from someone sitting in the overhead bins or FAs crop dusting, which is highly probable.

  3. Oh don’t worry….no chance of them returning to cabin “service”. They’re here only for your “safety”, remember.
    Now shut up and wear your mask, do as your your told and don’t even THINK of asking them for anything or you’ll be in handcuffs upon landing!

  4. Airlines have have shown they’d load passengers with pitchforks and stack them like cordwood if they could still get paid for it. I am fine with flight attendants being treated the same way. Considering how they generally treat the passengers, it would be karma.

  5. Chris as funny as your comment is, sadly it’s true. The majority of these flight attendants are on some kind of power trip. I guess their stressful job of handing out stale snacks isn’t fulfilling enough for them. But hey make sure you lift that mask off your face in between bites and stick a straw up under your mask while it’s still around your mouth, it will even work with coffee because Lord knows it’s never hot. And if you’re lucky it might not be made with toiletwater. Maybe you’re supposed to pay extra to get service from a flight attendant, like you do if you want a middle seat, Window Seat pay more please, do you want to carry on purse, pay more please, what your a .5-pound over that’s $100 more please, you want to sit in a seat that only your butt fits in, that’s 50 bucks more please!. Sadly I know anyone that says I enjoy flying anymore.

  6. “Without offering beverages in coach, let alone food for sale, there hasn’t been much for flight attendants to do. So they’d often sit in these blocked seats throughout much of the flight.”

    I recently flew transcon on an AA 321. I was a bit perplexed by a flight attendant who seemed to have an entire exit row blocked for her. She seemed to be “sort of” working for a few minutes at the beginning of the flight, but for almost the next 5 hours I don’t think she moved once from her enclave. She did get up to go through the aisle with a trash bag before we landed. It seemed very much like her job was just to sit on the airplane. Strange. But apparently she’s not alone.

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