March 2, 2021

Airlines move to restore confidence

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

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 he didn’t expect flights to be full immediately after coronavirus lockdowns 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 its cabins and is also boarding customers 10 at a time. It is not known if it plans to keep these measures 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.

A spokesman for Lufthansa said distancing measures are continually being reviewed and could not comment on what measures will be introduced or reinstated post pandemic.

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 in-flight emergencies, and the rear lavatory on the right side should be designated for the exclusive use by those under quarantine.

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