Air travel is one of the industries most impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, both financially and in safety of their passengers. Airlines are struggling to respond to the severe decrease in passengers, and hundreds of thousands of employees are at risk of losing their jobs (or already have). Companies are balancing the need to consolidate flights and reduce costs with implementing social distancing practices for passengers.
And so, the middle seat dilemma was born.
American Airlines, for one, promoted that the middle seat would remain vacant but photos show that was not the case on some flights when the pandemic first broke in the U.S.
MIT came out with a study that shows the dangerous effect that filling the middle seat could have. According to the study, filling the middle of an airplane nearly doubles the risk of spreading the coronavirus. On a flight with the middle seat open, the chances in the study were 1 in 7,700. If the flight is full, it gets cut to 1 in 4,300.
Most airlines are desperately seeking ways to mitigate losses during the pandemic. By choosing to consolidate flights, airlines may potentially increase the chances of spreading the coronavirus on flights.