Supermodel Chrissy Teigen Versus American Airlines – View from the Wing

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You can’t cover aviation without covering supermodel Chrissy Teigen. She broke news of a security incident on board a Los Angeles – Tokyo flight. One of her aspirations is to be an airline food writer. Airlines have sought her input on meal planning. She’s gotten special dispensation from TSA to bring her casserole through a security checkpoint. And she’s even brunched with Chase Sapphire cardholders.


Credit: Chase

When Chrissy Teigen has an opinion on aviation, you take it seriously. This time, though, I fear she’s gone off the deep end a little. She’s effectively calling American Airlines management murderers for selling middle seats on their planes.

Not to be dramatic but American Airlines only cares about money and doesn’t care if you get sick and die. https://t.co/6q8ZfZiduB

– chrissy teigen (@chrissyteigen) July 3, 2020

Right now Delta, Southwest, and JetBlue are delivering far more value, giving customers more space on board with their ticket by blocking middle seats. If you want to ensure you have an empty middle seat on United or American you have to pay for the extra seat.

We haven’t seen significant incidents of virus spread linked to planes. Sitting next to someone who is shedding the virus could be a risk for the individual, but probably not a major public health risk. Flights have not been super spreader events, though people with the virus have traveled from one place to another and brought it with them.

I’m far more worried about restaurants at 50% indoor capacity, where people aren’t wearing masks because they’re eating, talking and emitting respiratory droplets throughout the meal – especially in warm climates with high prevalence of air conditioning blowing the virus throughout the dining room.

You can choose not to fly, or choose not to fly Delta or United. But on the list of things to worry about, in terms of the pandemic, blocked middle seats should be pretty low on the list. Blocking middles does help with distancing a little not a lot, but people on planes don’t seem to be spreading the virus much. (And isn’t it funny that we only blame the bars for the behavior of customers, and blame the airlines not the passengers giving up better value at Delta and Southwest.)

American Airlines did lift its 85% load factor cap July 1. They had been limiting the number of people on their flights a little bit, but not to block middle seats even before. United hasn’t been blocking middles at all, yet the outrage seems to be new and focused largely on American. That’s probably because their change is freshest, and misreported.

Come on, Chrissy, you can do better. In these desperate times we need you!