The safest way to travel, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines is to wear a mask over your nose and mouth, stay six feet apart from others and avoid crowds, and wash your hands often or use hand sanitizer. But when you’re on an airplane, maintaining a distance of six feet from other people is impossible.
When the pandemic began, airlines started blocking the middle seats to help passengers keep more of a distance and curb the spread of Coronavirus. Those restrictions were lifted months ago except by Delta Air Lines but that’s ending on May 1.
This is happening just as new research from the CDC and Kansas State University shows that keeping the middle seats open on an aircraft can reduce passengers’ exposure to Coronavirus by up to 57%.
According to CNBC, “Researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Kansas State University found in laboratory modeling that passengers’ exposure to SARS-CoV-2, which causes Covid-19, on wide-body and narrow-body planes could be reduced between 23% and 57% if airlines leave middle seats open — even if they aren’t wearing masks.”
The article goes on to say, “The study comes after airlines have spent much of the last year touting stepped-up cleaning procedures and onboard filtration to calm travelers worried about flying during the pandemic. Travel demand has since rebounded somewhat as more of the public is vaccinated against Covid-19.”
Obviously, blocking the middle seats makes sense and that’s why I’ve been telling people to fly Delta right now, as they’re currently the only airline blocking the middle seat. Southwest stopped blocking middle seats on December 1.
And of course, the airlines aren’t happy about this. As travel picks up, they need to start filling seats to remain profitable.
According to USA Today: “The CDC just dropped a bombshell on the airline industry,” said Robert Glatter, an emergency room physician at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York. “That’s really what this report is.”
“Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian dismissed the results of the study in an appearance on CNBC early Thursday and said it will not change the airline’s plans to start filling middle seats again in May.”
“This study was based on 2017 data, so it doesn’t take into account any of the safety protocols that we’ve implemented, including masking, the electrostatic spraying (of planes), the cleanliness of the surfaces.”
The study was definitely flawed but it’s common sense that if there are fewer people on the plane and no one rubbing elbows with you, the chances of catching COVID-19 diminishes drastically. So, it’s not rocket science that passengers don’t want to be stuck in middle seats between two strangers breathing all over them. However, you can’t blame the airlines for selling all the seats unless passengers are willing to pay extra.
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