American Airlines Will Be Packing People onto Full Flights Starting July 1

Say goodbye to that empty middle seat.

AA corona lead
America Airlines

American Airlines, the largest airline in the United States, announced Friday that it will be ending its policy of only filling flights to 85 percent starting on July 1. This follows similar announcements from some other airlines, such as Spirit and United, and comes as the U.S. is dealing with its biggest spike in coronavirus cases since the early days of the pandemic.

The statement notes that anyone who buys a ticket on a full American flight will be notified and given the option of switching to an emptier one at no extra cost, and that fliers will be able to spread out once they're boarded if other ticketed passengers don't show up. But it seems that the early, ambitious talk of partitions and reconfigured seats has given way to a f*ck it sort of approach from airlines.

If you think I'm being glib, United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby said last month that since social distancing is "impossible" on airlines, they'll rely on their comprehensive cleaning and disinfecting measures to keep fliers safe as they book full flights. All the hand sanitizer in the world won't do you much good if you're seated right next to a carrier of the airborne virus for five hours, but hey, I'm not an airline executive.

In its press release, American said that it has taken many other measures outside of social distancing to make air travel after, as well. These include increased cleaning intervals of areas such as gates, ticket counters, and passenger service counters. It has also limited meals and beverages service during flights, which is a step many other airlines such as Alaska have taken as well.

Speaking of those other airlines, many are still keeping planes deliberately empty. Alaska Airlines will be flying at 65 percent capacity until July 31, and Delta plans to keep its aircraft at 60 percent capacity until September 30. Jet Blue also has a policy of not filling middle seats that will be in place until at least the end of July. 

This move by American Airlines is certain to be controversial among many travelers, however, the airline assures the public that "customers will be asked during the check-in process to certify that they are free of COVID-19 symptoms." So just make sure there are no liars on your flight before you board the plane.

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