American and Lufthansa Start Blocking Middle Seats for Social Distancing
Both American Airlines and German flag carrier Lufthansa say they will start blocking middle seats in order to give customers more space on their flights and to comply with social distancing rules to combat the Covid-19 Coronavirus pandemic. The two airlines, along with Lufthansa subsidiary Eurowings, join the likes of Air New Zealand who have already been blocking seats to create distance between passengers.
Many governments have enforced draconian social distancing rules to stop or slow the spread of the Coronavirus outbreak amongst their populations. Experts believe that maintaining a distance of at least two metres may help protect people, although some governments have advised against all contact. The risk of contracting the virus increases the longer you spend in contact with someone who already has it.
As of Thursday, Lufthansa and Eurowings will block all neighbouring seats in Economy and Premium Economy on flights departing Germany. The policy, however, is far more inconsistent on flights to Germany where there will be no guarantee of social distancing seat blocking because of need to get people home.
In a statement, Lufthansa defended it’s policy, saying its “top priority remains returning as many people as possible to their home country.”
Lufthansa has also committed to avoiding the use of coaching stands to avoid passengers having to share a crowded bus together. Wherever possible the airline will use gates with jetbridges, which shouldn’t be too difficult considering how few flights are currently operating.
Both policies will remain in force until April 19.
Meanwhile, American’s senior vice president of customer experience Kurt Stache said in a video message that the airline would also help block middle seats. Stache said half of the available middle seats would be blocked on all flights, which would give customers the availability to reassign their seat at the gate or to move once they were onboard.
He did, however, warn that having a blocked middle seat was not guaranteed despite the airline’s best intentions. American says the policy will be in force until at least May 31.
At this point, passengers really need to ask themselves whether their journey is absolutely essential. At least some airlines are trying to keep social distancing a realistic option for those who do still need to travel.