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Do expect a lot of changes on air travel in the following months.
The Covid-19 pandemic has changed the world of travel, especially in the airline industry. For example, quarantine procedures are enhanced, travel destinations are being limited, and flight capacity for first-class and economy class seating during coronavirus have been reduced.
These are just some of the changes that happened since the virus hit the U.S. in early January. There’s a lot more to come in the succeeding months, however, it’s a must for major carriers to keep their operations ongoing so they can keep their businesses and the industry alive.
What are the changes for airline seating?
Airlines can implement stricter health protocols and more travel restrictions as much as they want but to keep the operations alive, they need to take in passengers.
So how are airlines addressing the passenger seating issue? We’re going to give you a bird’s eye view on what’s currently happening and what’s going to happen in the near future.
However, we’re going to focus on “economy class seats” for now since there’s not much of a difference in what happens in first-class and business class seats (except for the reduced amenities of course).
Economy Class Seating During Coronavirus Pandemic
During the peak of the coronavirus panic, almost all airlines have blocked off middle seats in economy class to adhere to social distancing guidelines.
But with the summer season slowly approaching, that panic is slowly fading away and travel is slowly easing back into the picture. In fact, some of the top U.S. carriers such as American Airlines, Spirit, United, and Allegiant are filling as many seats as they can to cater to the surge of passengers
However, there are some airlines that are still blocking off middle seats in the name of social distancing. Here they are.
Delta Air Lines
As of now, customers cannot pick middle seats on Delta’s website or app. The airline mentioned that it will continue to block off middle seats up until September 30, 2020.
Southwest is only accepting 2/3 of its flight capacity which means that middle seats are definitely blocked. The airline mentioned that it will continue to implement this policy up until September 30, 2020.
Passengers are free to choose their seats when they board but are encouraged not to sit next to each other unless they’re family members or friends.
JetBlue has also been limiting the number of seats it sells by blocking middle seats on both their small and big aircraft. However, families or people traveling together can still request to sit next to each other.
The policy applies to both first-class and economy class seating and is effective until July 31, 2020.
The airline will continue to limit seating capacity and block middle seats through September 30, 2020. Gate agents will be in charge of seating arrangements to maintain social distancing among fliers.
You can request to sit next to your travel companions if you wish or request a different seat if you feel uncomfortable with your assigned seat.
Frontier will continue to block middle seats through August 31, 2020. In fact, the airline is blocking about 20 seats per flight to maintain social distancing.
The airline is keeping its flight capacity low by only selling 70% of its seats. This means that middle seats are blocked temporarily up until August 31, 2020.
However, families and traveling companions may sit together. They just need to ask the gate agents in advance.
New Airplane Seating Design Ideas
Most airlines are blocking off middle seats to apply social distancing measures for economy class seating during coronavirus.
However, an Italian airplane interiors company just came up with innovative designs that are going to solve social distancing problems without blocking off seats.
Janus was named after the two-faced Roman god Janus. Basically, the design consists of a row of airplane chairs that are alternately facing opposite directions and creates the “two-faced” appearance.
These airplane chairs help isolate passengers from another to maintain social distancing. There’s no need to block middle seats anymore because you can install a protective barrier for each chair that will prevent breath propagation.
Airline companies can choose different levels of transparency for the glass shields if ever they choose to use these airplane chairs on their aircraft.
Aviointeriors also created a simpler design called “Glassafe” that can be easily installed in existing airplane chairs. It’s basically a kit-level solution that features the traditional seating arrangement with a transparent glass shield separating the chairs.
Just like the Janus, the barrier will help minimize interaction amongst passengers, thus, minimizing the risk of spreading the virus. According to the company, the design can easily be installed or removed and it’s available in different levels of transparency.
Read More: Handling Coronavirus Flight Cancellations
Currently, airlines are blocking middles seats just to keep their operations alive but the Janus and Glassafe can help maximize flight capacity without compromising social distancing.
These designs will provide solutions to flight capacity problems in economy class seating and in turn, increase revenue for airline companies.
Amenities For Economy Class Seating During Coronavirus
Almost all airlines have scaled back on in-flight amenities and that includes some of the U.S. top carriers such as Delta, Alaska, American, and United.
For example, American Airlines will only serve meals and alcohol for first or business class passengers who are flying more than 2,200 miles. Meanwhile, its economy class passengers who are traveling for more than 2,200 miles will only get complimentary pretzels or Biscoff cookies, water, and canned drinks.
Delta on the other hand will only serve real meals on long-haul international flights. In fact, they won’t even serve meals to first-class passengers on transcontinental flights.
On United, only business class passengers on premium transcontinental flights can get meal service. Meanwhile, Alaska Airlines have totally removed meal service from their flights whether your first class or economy.
For your reference, you may check the detailed in-flight service policies of the airlines mentioned above.
Air Travel Safety Measures
There are definitely changes with regards to air travel safety measures and all passengers will have to undergo the same security protocols during their flights.
Health declarations and frequent temperature checks are two of the main changes added. Flyers are required to declare that they’re in good health and have not been in contact with a Covid-positive person.
Back-to-front boarding is also another thing that most airlines are adopting. Basically, passengers who are assigned back seats will be seated first to lessen physical contact. JetBlue, Frontier, and Delta are currently doing this.
A lot of airlines are also doubling their efforts on sanitation. For example, Allegiant airlines is doing deep-cleaning procedures on a regular basis and is providing its flyers cleaning wipes upon request.
Meanwhile, Spirit Airlines has started to implement fogging to supplement its standard sanitary procedures.
Thoughts From Points Panda
Airline companies are doing the best they can to keep everything in place until the coronavirus situation subsides. But if it doesn’t, airlines may be forced to shut down their operations again or furlough their employees.
For example, United Airlines is considering temporarily giving employees a leave of absence if travel doesn’t pick up in October. That’s about 36,000 jobs or approximately half of its workforce that’s at stake here.
Do expect a lot of changes on air travel in the following months. It’s probably going to take years before everything goes back to normal.