American Airlines Will Start Booking Flights To Full Capacity Next Week

by Kristine Cannon
American Airlines
Tom Pennington/Getty Images

As the nation hits a record high in daily cases, many businesses, from restaurants and grocery stores to airlines, are trying to do their part to reduce the risk of exposure to and transmission of COVID-19, including implementing mask wearing and encouraging social distancing, among other new health and safety protocols. But one businesses this week announced their decision to ditch their social distancing efforts: American Airlines.

American Airlines said on Friday that they will begin booking flights to full capacity starting next week, effectively eliminating any social distancing among passengers on their planes — unlike several of their rivals. Through Sept. 30, for instance, Delta is capping seats at about 60 percent capacity, and Southwest will cap at 67 percent. And through July 31, JetBlue will leave middle seats empty.

“As more people continue to travel, customers may notice that more flights are booked to capacity starting July 1,” AA writes. Since April, American Airlines has left middle seats open, limiting bookings to about 85 percents of their planes’ capacity.

American Airlines did say, however, that they will notify customers if the flight’s likely to be full and they’ll even let customers change their flights at no extra cost or change seats on the plane (if there’s room, of course). Oh, and they’re also working with experts through their new Travel Health Advisory Panel to help guide them on health and cleaning best practices. “It’s part of our Clean Commitment to ensure that the well-being and safety of our customers and #AATeam come first,” American Airlines tweeted. We should all feel comforted by that… right?

“Packing an airplane 100 percent full without health testing in place is a risky business decision,” Henry Harteveldt, a travel analyst with Atmosphere Research Group, told ABC News. “If someone contracts the COVID-19 virus on a 100 percent full plane, they’re going to sue American Airlines. Just because another airline is doing it doesn’t mean it’s the right business decision.”

American Airlines isn’t alone in their decision to do away with limiting capacity. United and Spirit Airlines are, too, and they’ve also ramped up cleaning procedures. According to ABC News, United CEO Scott Kirby said social distancing is impossible on planes anyway and that, even with empty middle seats, people are less than six feet away from one another.

American Airlines’ news comes as cases skyrocket in several hotspots, including Arizona and Florida, and as Texas shuts down its bars again due to surging cases. Several states, including New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut, are even requiring visitors from said hotspot states to quarantine for 14 days. In other words, we’re still a hot mess, and American Airlines’ decision to toss social distancing out the window at this time is simply irresponsible.

The United States has more confirmed COVID-19 cases than any other country at 2.46 million, according to the Johns Hopkins coronavirus dashboard. Brazil ranks second with 1.27 million. The U.S. also has more than 125,000 confirmed deaths due to COVID-19.

Information about COVID-19 is rapidly changing, and Scary Mommy is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. With news being updated so frequently, some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For this reason, we are encouraging readers to use online resources from local public health departments, the Centers for Disease Control, and the World Health Organization to remain as informed as possible.