COVID 19: US airline economics will dictate unblocking middle seats

Premium Analysis

In a case of very unfortunate timing, some US airlines are rolling back, or adding more clarity to, their policies of blocking the middle seat on their aircraft just as the country’s COVID-19 cases continue their alarming climb. 

American Airlines is drawing criticism from the US Centres for Disease Control (CDC) for its decision, while United is arguing that blocking the middle seat does not create six feet of distance between passengers in any case. 

The reality is that those airlines that continue blocking the middle seat cannot continue the practice indefinitely and bolster revenue. At some point all US operators will stop capping the number of seats they sell on aircraft as they work toward reaching break-even load factors (that now exceed 100%). 

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