Supermodel Chrissy Teigen Versus American Airlines

You can’t cover aviation without covering supermodel Chrissy Teigen. She broke news of a security incident on board a Los Angeles – Tokyo flight. One of her aspirations is to be an airline food writer. Airlines have sought her input on meal planning. She’s gotten special dispensation from TSA to bring her casserole through a security checkpoint. And she’s even brunched with Chase Sapphire cardholders.

Credit: Chase

When Chrissy Teigen has an opinion on aviation, you take it seriously. This time, though, I fear she’s gone off the deep end a little. She’s effectively calling American Airlines management murderers for selling middle seats on their planes.

Right now Delta, Southwest, and JetBlue are delivering far more value, giving customers more space on board with their ticket by blocking middle seats. If you want to ensure you have an empty middle seat on United or American you have to pay for the extra seat.

We haven’t seen significant incidents of virus spread linked to planes. Sitting next to someone who is shedding the virus could be a risk for the individual, but probably not a major public health risk. Flights have not been super spreader events, though people with the virus have traveled from one place to another and brought it with them.

I’m far more worried about restaurants at 50% indoor capacity, where people aren’t wearing masks because they’re eating, talking and emitting respiratory droplets throughout the meal – especially in warm climates with high prevalence of air conditioning blowing the virus throughout the dining room.

You can choose not to fly, or choose not to fly Delta or United. But on the list of things to worry about, in terms of the pandemic, blocked middle seats should be pretty low on the list. Blocking middles does help with distancing a little not a lot, but people on planes don’t seem to be spreading the virus much. (And isn’t it funny that we only blame the bars for the behavior of customers, and blame the airlines not the passengers giving up better value at Delta and Southwest.)

American Airlines did lift its 85% load factor cap July 1. They had been limiting the number of people on their flights a little bit, but not to block middle seats even before. United hasn’t been blocking middles at all, yet the outrage seems to be new and focused largely on American. That’s probably because their change is freshest, and misreported.

Come on, Chrissy, you can do better. In these desperate times we need you!

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. Generally speaking, supermodels are not the smartest breed, and anyway, why is this news? Who cares what she has to say? How many more articles about “famous” people complaining about middle seats do we have to read?

  2. Think you mean American (not Delta). You can choose not to fly, or choose not to fly Delta or United.

  3. Let’s call it like it is. She’s an over privileged, under educated America-hating lib who draws attention to herself by posting topless selfies. She can afford to buy seats up front and tweet about it. Big deal.

  4. I don’t care if Chrissy Teigen gets sick and dies. That doesn’t make me a murderer. I find it disingenuous to interpret her Tweet as calling AA execs murderers.

  5. This weekend I took a purely optional flight for R&R purposes. Let me preface my comments by saying I’m not mad, perturbed, or blaming AA for anything. I was scheduled on Thursday for a non-stop flight from LAX to SJD. Prior to departure, I received two e-mails stating the flight was “very full” and that they were asking me to take another flight so they could provide proper social distancing. I looked and the first alternative they offered was on the 4th. I return on the 5th. Um, no. The phone call was on Wednesday and a very pleasant agent “encouraged” me to change my flight due to being busy (nothing about social distancing this time). I explained that I’m returning on the 5th. She said “no problem, you can travel the same day”, So, I asked her to explain the alternative, which she did. After listening. I asked if they were offering compensation. She replied “unfortunately, no”. I responded, “ so AA is asking that I readjust my non-stop flight to a flight that connects through PHX, leaves 2 hours earlier and arrives 3 hours later out of the goodness of my heart?” Long pause, then a chuckle….”well, yes”. Thanks, I’m good. Then at check-in, they were offering vouchers, which I agreed to, but they ended up not needing me. Of course, every seat was filled…there was no attempt at social distancing as described in their original e-mail. My only reason for sharing this story is that the whole thing took a special kind of chutzpah, rarely seeing so brazenly these days.

  6. Actually, Gary, I DON’T take anything she says very seriously. And she’s not smart, she’s actually pretty stupid.

  7. AA is notorious for being the crappiest cheapest worst service worst dependability airline EVER. This does not surprise me. She may not have said it appropriately but it sums up AA – all about the $$. They couldn’t care less about their flyers. I’m a non-mask-wearing frequent flyer. I don’t care if I have to sit next to someone but obviously most people care. American is a FAIL. As usual.

  8. She may or may not be smart, but she sure hit the nail on the head with this, and I suspect anyone arguing otherwise feels guilty about the company’s deciding its customers’ health isn’t very important. No, you’re not murderers; just much more interested in the Airline’s bottom line than my safety and health. So I’m avoiding flying for a while, and picking WN, DL and JetBlue when I do go. No sense playing this game; maybe this preference permeates the entire enterprise, right down to maintenance….

  9. I can’t tell if you are sarcastic or serious. Krissy Teigen can’t tell the difference between an A380 and a 747 if they are parked side by side.
    I like to eat. I know many, many restaurant owners and some even ask me for menu changes. A few even pay me to redo their menu. That certainly does not make me a food critic. Or anybody you should listen to about restaurant food.

  10. If Chrissy Teigen could influence American Airlines to serve bakery goods like the croissant or the cinnamon roll in the photo to me on my next flight, she would be worthy of the title of “supermodel.”

  11. Teigen just re-tweeted Sen. Merkley. I did not see either accuse AA of murder. So this is just click-bait.

  12. It is often difficult to read comments on your posts, Gary. There are so many negative and spiteful ad hominem responses.

  13. @SST, Amen re customers and also employees. Businesses feel obligated to put profits first, and lives are somewhere down the list when companies can escape legal liability and bad PR. Boeing is an exception even to that.

  14. Gary, I wish you hadn’t gone after her for having an opinion that you disagree with. Now incels are taking silly pot shots at her. You’re better than this as well.

  15. people can debate the death rate of the virus but it’s ability to spread is amazing. My gf’s family caught it from a non mask wearing caretaker. i may also been infected but getting tested especially without serious symptoms is tough in AZ. I am probably on day 9 if I have it, so far no major problems and her family is also mostly doing ok. 3 of them did get tested, 2 at a hospital, and were positive. one is hospitalized but may be getting out tomorrow.

    Another couple where the wife had it without any symptoms but now the husband is in very bad shape.

    Mask wearing needs to be strictly enforced.

  16. In order to validate her bona fides on this subject, I think we need a selection of photos, some of which should be topless.

  17. @Gary,
    “When Chrissy Teigen has an opinion on aviation, you take it seriously.” – Really? I’ve found a much better solution. When a “celebrity” has an opinion on anything, if you hear it at all, should be dismissed immediately.

  18. You are all looking at it one sided. What profits? All the airlines are losing millions of dollars a DAY. Thousands of airline employees will be losing there jobs. The airlines are only trying to survive. All these celebrities just need to mind their own business. They live in a different world then the majority of us. If you feel more at risk you probably should take s ok me extra precautions. Just be smart.

  19. I have postponed my flight with American after hearing that they were filling middle seats. Last thing I want is to hop on a 6 hour flight at 11 pm, wondering how many passengers would be snoring or coughing this possibly emitting droplets. No thanks!!!

  20. I canceled all my American flights and rebooked on Alaska and Southwest ……I agree with her …..American and United are both I have million miler status with …now my loyalty is elsewhere

  21. If Delta does not sell the middle seat you are 20” away from the person on the window or the aisle. I don’t really see this as social distancing. If they really did practice social distancing there would only be people in window seats in every other row. You are riding on a 320 million dollar a/c that burns an incredible amount of fuel, fully staffed and you expect there to be lots of room between you and the next person. It’s not how companies stay in business.

  22. “When Chrissy Teigen has an opinion on aviation, you take it seriously. ”

    No. She is just a fathead.

  23. This is just clickbait, in the gutter. You need to do better than this Gary. If you really have to stretch that hard to come up with something, maybe just field one less post that day…

  24. @rich: and put in your insurance info. You’ll receive the test kit the next day, and with a return fedex they will pickup . Results were 2 days later

  25. Let me guess what seats this so called supermodel usually sits her casserole stuffed arse … 1C? 2A? Certainly not 32B … when she sits with the rest of the 99% I might listen but until then keep flashing the girls cause that the only thing keeping you in the headlines.

  26. Gary, u and the rest of those who poke fun at a woman who is trying to save people’s lives deserve Trump but the rest of us don’t. Gary, u and your right wing blathering should really warrant u an invite at one of Trumps many KKK rallies sitting up front without a mask

  27. No American Airlines for me and I fly all over the world. If United or other airlines don’t change their middle seat policy back to (empty for free) then I will fly with someone else unless I am 3 in a row with family. I’ll pay the difference. My girlfriend and I are working on plans to travel to every country and territory in the world. I’ve already been to 48. Someone stands to lose a hell of a lot of money as I know I not the only one who draws a line.

  28. This thread has inspired me, I am going to take a picture of dog s**t I see on the street, put a pointless story with it and prey on bored people in lockdown to click on my story, the load up with ads, now I can make money brainwashing everyone with bulls**t, I don’t know what’s worse piece of sh*t greedy celebs, or the piece of sh*t who writes about it, calls it news, and makes money from it.

  29. Every time I see a pic of Teigen, I immediately think of Miss Piggy.
    Her mouth is vulgar and there are very few functioning brain cells in that head.
    Cancel her.

  30. No one has to be smart or pretty to call money grubbing, opportunistic, greedy ***s for what they are.

    AA is as slimy as the rest of them.

    First in line to take handouts, last in line (when kicked and pushed) in line to give even basic human courtesy.

    Anyone who pretends otherwise has a dollar to make from saying so.

    Plain truth.

  31. How does not selling middle seats make flying safer? What are Delta, Jetblue, Southwest and Alaska doing to ensure that of 109 passengers on a flight at 60% capacity, there aren’t 5 or 6 infected? Are they tested before boarding? What about the waiting areas. All you need are 4 or 5 flights departing at the same approximate times and you easily have 600 people in the waiting area. Is social distancing really working in the terminal? Try waiting in the fish tank terminal in White Plains, NY with capacity for 200 and they pack 400 or more.

  32. I find that really funny. An obviously seriously biased journalist, complains about an actually appropriate concern from a celebrity.

    But let’s look on the facts:
    1. more passengers means higher risk, just by simple probability calculations
    2. closed environments are the best place for the virus to spread.
    3. air conditions may spread the virus, since there’s evidence that the virus may bind to pm2.5. Hepa filter only can filter particles as small as 3 mm, not 2.5.

    And on top of this, we know nothing about the neighbors mask hygiene. A mask worn for two weeks without washing may not prevent anything. Sure, United or AA could distribute fresh masks, but I am sure they don’t. And eventually they will use COVID only for justifying there already bad service.

    So calling them murderers may still be a bit of an exaggeration, but they still can be accused of gross negligence and greed. And that is actually what Teigen did, the murderer statement was the journalist’s interpretation.

    Being a frequent flyer myself, and also gold with star alliance, I always asked our travel agent to avoid United and AA if possible, already before the crisis.

    And really very brave of Delta, to go that route. Being also a flying blue member, I will definitely try to increase my delta flights whenever possible. And the seat issue gives me a good reason to reject United/AA flights, even if they would be cheaper, just on the basis of personal health.

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