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What Do YOU Think About Airlines Opening Up Middle Seats?

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Rene’s Points For Better Travel, a division of Chatterbox Entertainment, Inc. has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Rene’s Points For Better Travel and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.


Are you stuck in the middle?

Southwest announced this past week it’ll stop blocking middle seats on December 1. In a blog post on its website, the airline cited several articles and scientific studies backing up their reasoning.

With coronavirus cases surging as we head into cold and flu season, are you comfortable with more airlines lifting their middle seat restrictions?

Here are some of the points Southwest argued:

Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health recently published a bulletin that concluded … wearing a surgical mask, combined with the ventilation rates onboard aircraft, can reduce the risk of infection from respiratory particles to less than 1 percent.

The US Department of Defense’s US Transportation Command released a study that “concluded that the high air exchange coupled with high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filtration of all recirculated air means a commercial aircraft’s air supply system provides protection greater than the design standards for a patient isolation room or a hospital operating room.”

IATA (The International Air Transport Association) claims there were only 44 cases of COVID-19 transmitted as the result of a flight. “That’s 44 people out of the nearly 1.2 billion passengers who have traveled in 2020, or one case for every 27 million travelers this year,” Southwest wrote. “As IATA suggests, this is approximately the same risk category as being struck by lightning.”

IATA’s findings are the ones that raised my eyebrows a bit. They have skin in the airline travel game. And they surely want more people onboard flights. But, when it comes the “struck by lightning” remark I’d like to paraphrase my friend Larry Thompsonyou can’t get struck by lightning if you’re not out in a storm. 

So is it worth stepping into the storm?

I’m starting to thaw when it comes to air travel again. But I’m pretty much at the meat-just-out-of-the-freezer-that-needs-a-long-time-until-it’s-ready-to-be-cooked stage.

Why?

Planes encompass only part of the travel experience. There are airports and all their environs. And let’s not forget the destinations themselves.

Gary Leff wrote this great post a few months ago. And much of it still rings true today:

You may fly somewhere the virus is spreading at a high rate, exposing yourself at the destination. Flying does involve being around more people, in the airport and to and from. And once you get there… will you be let in? It’s not just foreign countries that are limiting entry, several U.S. states are imposing quarantines on arriving travelers from several other states.

If you’re allowed to travel freely to your destination you may find the bars closed (if that’s your thing), restaurant dining options limited, service at your hotel limited, and sporting events and other activities closed too.

And what if you’re exposed to someone who catches the virus while you’re traveling, and you have to quarantine while you’re gone? Then you’re facing additional time away from home, inconvenience (even if you don’t get sick) and additional travel expenses.

What Do You Think?

Do the studies make you feel safe? Or are you waiting until there’s a readily available vaccine? Please share your thoughts in the below Comments section.

Rene’s Points For Better Travel, a division of Chatterbox Entertainment, Inc. has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Rene’s Points For Better Travel and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.


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7 Comments

  1. I’m pretty sure most everyone would want an empty middle seat for a lot of reasons, especially with the virus issue (or current flu season). But on recent trips, I’ve notice blocks of seats (middle seat occupied) taken up by families. Granted, it’s not a stranger, but it’s still occupied by another individual. If this occurred on my flight, I’d make sure my mask was always in place, take wipes to clean my area more than once, and open the overhead air flow.

  2. They study is flawed in that it has everyone wearing good quality medical masks covering both mouth and nose. In real life the quality of face coverings is very poor and compliance with cover BOTH mouth and nose might be around 60%. Having flown almost weekly for work (manufacturing cant be done remotely) I cringe at how badly people are doing wear masks. Its not that hard, but yet proper use is lacking.

  3. Flown on lots of flights in Europe lately without middle seat blocked. Zero concern. None.

    Surprised airlines had done it for as long as they have. More health theatre.
    Hope they fill the planes up and get back to making money again.

  4. Rachael Olson Reply

    I’m not ready to travel yet. Blocking middle seats would make me feel better, since I can’t imagine being ok with a stranger sitting that close to me for hours right now, but it’s not enough. The virus is surging across the U.S. and states are likely to start imposing more restrictions soon. Illinois already has. Just doesn’t seem like a great time to expose myself to hundreds of people in airports! I do really, really miss travel. Just can’t feel good about it yet.

  5. I have only flown once during the pandemic. I will need to fly a bit in the next year…and it will ONLY be on an airline that blocks the middle seat. Not negotiable.

  6. I won’t fly on an airplane that does not block middle seat other than for a family member. My wife and I have flown a couple of times with mask and face shield upgraded to either Comfort or First Class on Delta. Felt safe with many preventive precautions I’m the airport and at our seats . Great job Delta! Keep up the middle seat blocking.

  7. They need keep the middle seat open… heck I think the seats in front and in back of each other and to close They need to keep it up. until there are safe and highly effective therapeutic treatment ( several different ones preferably) readily available to the general public, safe and effective vaccines , or thIs plaque burns itself out. But until then, The only person I want sitting directly next to or around me is my spouse.

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