Social Distancing on Planes Is Going Out the Window

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Air travel was one of the first industries to totally collapse due to COVID-19. After all, nobody wants to spend a few hours breathing the same air as every other stressed-out passenger. The airline industry feels it's been absorbing the financial shocks for long enough, however.


Starting on July 1, American Airlines will begin filling up flights again, potentially eliminating the social distance that made flying feasible for many. Currently, American Airlines leaves 15 percent of seating capacity unfilled. Other airlines may follow suit with easing this guideline, while United and budget carrier Spirit have never implemented onboard distancing policies. That doesn't mean everyone is totally giving up the adaptations they've made, such as blocking out middle seats and alerting customers as a flight fills up during the sales period.

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Southwest and Delta have not announced any relaxations, which may be key as dozens of states start to see new peaks in infection rates. Certain states are issuing interstate travel restrictions, and plans to reopen in 11 states are halting in an effort to contain the virus. Even international travel is a problem now, as the European Union reopens to member countries but bans Americans from entering due to COVID.


The best thing we can all do to keep ourselves and each safe is to wear masks and stay cautious. Designers are already imagining other ways to make flying safer in the age of coronavirus, but for now, be aware that not every airline has a uniform means of confronting it.