Southwest Airlines plans to resume placing passengers in middle seats on planes in December, the company said Thursday.
Southwest was one of a handful of American airlines that had chosen to keep middle seats empty to curb the spread of COVID-19.
The airline said its decision to resume the bookings “was not made lightly.”
In a series of tweets, the carrier pointed to recent studies showing the low likelihood of contract the COVID-19 virus on planes — so long as everyone is wearing a mask.
One of those studies, from Harvard’s School of Public Health, found the risk of infection was less than 1 percent if everyone on board masked up, the airline said.
Another study cited by Southwest, conducted by the Department of Defense in coordination with United Airlines, found a mere 0.003 percent chance a coronavirus-infected person could spread the disease to a fellow flier.
“This practice of effectively keeping middle seats open bridged us from the early days of the pandemic, when we had little knowledge about the behavior of the virus, to now,” Southwest CEO Gary C. Kelly said during in the company’s third-quarter report to investors, Fox Business reported.
“Today, aligned with science-based findings from trusted medical and aviation organizations, we will resume selling all available seats for travel beginning December 1, 2020,” Kelly said.
United, American and JetBlue have also returned to booking middle seats, The Washington Post said — though JetBlue still promises to block off 30 percent of seats.
Delta, meanwhile, plans to resume middle-seat bookings in January, CEO Ed Bastian said last week.
Some medical experts questioned the airlines’ moves to fill up more seats.
“Disappointed to hear this- the studies rely on perfect masking for all..for the entire flight,” tweeted University of Arizona public health professor Dr. Saskia Popescu.
“Especially shocking to see this rolled out as we are seeing a third wave…and head into the holidays…. and cold weather,” Popescu said.
Author : David Meyer