One airline gets publicly dragged for charging a ‘More Room’ fee for social distancing, as the airline industry awkwardly adapts to the logistics of travel under COVID-19.
We’re seeing a few more airplanes up in the skies now, which begs a few questions: Who the heck is flying right now? How full are the planes? And are people really wearing masks for four to six hours on the whole flight? The Associated Press tackles all of these questions in an informative read entitled Why Are Some Planes Crowded Even With Air Travel Down?, which breaks down the numbers to find that even though overall passenger volume is down by 93 percent, fewer planes in operation is leading to crowded flights.
So on Frontier Airlines you now have to pay an extra fee to keep yourself safe from corona virus. As I said today at the Commerce hearing, there needs to be fed. guidance in place so airlines can’t do this.— Amy Klobuchar (@amyklobuchar) May 7, 2020
And I thought their half-tray tables were bad.. https://t.co/Gu6DcSSVIo
That’s left airlines scrambling for dollars, and one of them is in hot water for it. Democratic VP wannabe Senator Amy Klobuchar is one of the lawmakers who pressured Frontier Airlines to drop their $39 “More Room” fee according to a separate AP report on KRON4. “We recognize the concerns raised that we are profiting from safety and this was never our intent,” backpedaling Frontier CEO Barry Biffle said in a statement. And as seen below, Delta Airlines is promoting social distancing by limiting seating, but with more distancing available only in First Class.
LATEST: Delta will be limiting seating to 50% in first class and 60% in the rest of the plane through June 30. https://t.co/7d2V71npQH pic.twitter.com/4bv38h3tOz— ABC News (@ABC) May 5, 2020
Say what you want about Delta, but they’re clearly doing a better of distancing passengers than other airlines. A New York Post report describes an “American Airlines flight-mare” where a Connecticut passenger, in a since-deleted Facebook post, claimed “every single seat on this plane was filled!” and that “While I understand the need to make the flight worth the cost, I just don’t understand how the airline gets away with this while a restaurant owner is charged with a misdemeanor for serving a single person at a bar.”
Another passenger rips American Airlines over crammed flight amid coronavirus https://t.co/HxxgRv2Sy2 pic.twitter.com/yTE2Ag2MgJ— New York Post (@nypost) May 7, 2020
Airlines will all work a little differently, but the TSA line experience is the same no matter what your airline. And Reuters brings us the news that TSA employees will be required to wear masks at all times when on duty. “The agency is also likely to encourage passengers to wear face coverings during screening, but not mandate them,” according to that story.
All U.S. airport security screeners must start wearing masks, the TSA is set to announce as soon as Thursday https://t.co/joNIO5bx1l— Bloomberg (@business) May 7, 2020
But back to that original, all-encompassing Associated Press report. It notes that the “big four” airlines of American, Delta, Southwest, and United are all requiring passengers to wear masks the whole flight, following the late April lead of JetBlue. (You’re allowed to remove it to eat or drink.) But since mask-wearing is now part of the culture war of COVID-19 truthers, the airlines do anticipate blowback.
“We're not going to land a plane because somebody won't keep their mask on unless they are violent or crazy,” an anonymous industry official told the AP. “We will flag that for corporate security, and they may not be welcome to fly us again.”
Many are predicting that extended months of no middle-seat filling will mean that some airlines won't break even, which will mean an end to affordable air travel as we know it as they struggle to recoup costs and raise fares.
And you should anticipate less food and beverage service (or none) on your flight, to minimize contact. Planes have to be cleaned and disinfected much more thoroughly, which could lead to delays. All of the unpleasant aspects of air travel will become far more unpleasant until this all passes over and “normal” airline service returns, which we will still totally complain about, but will hopefully involve less risk of deadly infection.
Related: United Is Now Disinfecting All Tray Tables, Not Letting Passengers Reach For Their Own Water Cup [SFist]
Image: @Colin_M_R via Twitter