In an in-person question and answer session with employees this week (with masks), which View From The Wing reviewed a recording of, American Airlines CEO Doug Parker explained why they’re no longer going to limit the number of seats they sell on each flight – providing for some empty middle seats – and also talked about measures the airline is taking for safety.
Starting July 1 American is going to sell flights to maximum capacity (holding back a few seats near flight attendant jump seats), and will no longer then be blocking any middle seats from being assigned.
Parker offers that the cap on capacity for each flight was “done at a different time” – by which he means a time when planes were empty, not a time when social distancing and coronavirus mattered more! – and he explains that “it was done pre-masks being required.” Placing limits on selling seats “is stopping some people who want to fly from flying.” Since American has “a significant number of flights going out and capped at 85%” that people can’t buy tickets on those flights who would want to.
He adds that another measure they’re going to take is to require health screening questionnaires as part of the passenger check-in process,
We are soon to roll out something that a couple of other airlines have already done, but we’ve quickly gotten in place now to which is customer upon check-in will acknowledge that they don’t have the sympoms and they’re willing to wear a mask – which gives us more confidence in removing these restrictions [on number of seats sold per flight].
Health screeners do not keep anyone from spreading the virus. No one says, “oh, you mean if I have COVID-19 I’m not supposed to fly?” answers honestly and opts out of flying. If they’re symptomatic and choosing to fly they won’t answer honestly. If they’re asymptomatic or pre-sympomatic the screener won’t do anything either.
To believe health screeners matter means believing that passengers do not realize having a fever or cough means they shouldn’t travel, so educating them keeps them from infecting others – and that education, which hasn’t happened since the start of the pandemic, is finally going to occur inside the American Airlines app.