June 25, 2024

Inflight social distancing plans take shape

EasyJet has confirmed plans to keep middle seats free once it resumes flying, to allow for social distancing inflight.

The airline’s chief executive Johan Lundgren said it could re-start flying with as little as two weeks’ notice and believes leaving middle seats empty would encourage more people to fly.

He said the move would be possible because flights were unlikely to be full immediately after coronavirus lock-downs are lifted. He said easyJet would liaise with authorities and listen to its customers’ views on other measures, particularly in the re-start period.

Other airlines have already taken the initiative to block middle seats on existing flights in light of guidance from authorities. Delta is keeping middle seats free for all flights until May 31 in all cabins and is boarding customers 10 at a time. It is not clear if these measures will remain in place once restrictions are lifted and full flying resumes.

Lufthansa and Eurowings are blocking neighbour seats in economy and premium economy on all flights from and within Germany. They are also avoiding the use of transit buses, or providing twice as many buses if this is not possible.

On board, the airlines have taken steps to reduce touch points between crew and passengers, including the removal of pillows and blankets, in-flight sales, and drinks, including the distribution of water bottles.

British Airways said: “We have taken several steps to greatly reduce contact on board, and this is kept under constant review.”

IATA has issued strict guidelines for flights during the pandemic, dividing flights into low, medium or high risk. Even on low risk flights, it is advising airlines to cancel serving cold dishes, cold meat or fish and edible ice cubes.

It says the last three rows of seats on international flights should be reserved as a quarantine area for handling possible inflight emergencies, and the rear lavatory on the right side should be designated for the exclusive use by those under quarantine.