How Airlines Are Giving Us Space from COVID

Image Credit: Maria Argutinskaya/iStock/GettyImages

At a time when we haven't yet gotten our arms around the novel coronavirus, flying commercial airlines seems like the worst possible idea. It's a metal tube with recycled air and no elbow room, full of nervous people who may or may not be sick. The American airline industry isn't waiting for perfect conditions to get back in business, though. That has implications for everyone, even those who still won't fly.

United and American have both announced new implementations that can help travelers decide how they want to get to where they need to be. In one shift, the airlines will now alert fliers when their flight is more than 70 percent full; if the customer is uncomfortable taking that chance, they can book a different flight at no extra cost. American Airlines has seen a 90 percent drop in revenue since the COVID-19 outbreak began, but recent weeks have shown a small but consistent uptick.

Other policies are even simpler: Delta, for instance, will add more flights to its roster to keep airplanes at no more than 60 percent capacity. Airlines like JetBlue and Southwest will no longer fill middle seats. So far, none of the industry giants are undertaking major cosmetic changes to their airplane interiors, but there are some early conceptual designs out there.

It may not yet be the right time to travel, or even spend much time outside. Everyone is still navigating service interruptions and, in some cases, actual travel bans, but whether you need a train, a plane, or an automobile, there are still options for safely getting outside for long-distance trips.