CDC and Airlines Fight over Middle Seats

As we’ve previously reported, flying on an airplane where everyone is wearing a mask and the middle seats are blocked has resulted in very few COVID-19 exposures on airlines. Studies show that with an airplane’s advanced filtration systems, the air is constantly being purified, so as long as someone isn’t directly next to you, the chance of their moisture particles making it to you was surprisingly slim.

However, as the COVID-19 pandemic has started “coming to a close” (as some believe it is), airlines have gotten restless and have begun removing many of the safety measures in place. One such measure that airlines are ditching happens to be one of the absolute most important…social distancing.

Delta revealed that on May 1st, it will no longer block middle seats on flights. Delta is the last airline to block seats, and some airlines, like Southwest, opened up middle seats as early as the holiday season (which led to America’s biggest COVID-19 surge to date).

On the heels of Delta’s announcement, the CDC released the findings from a study they conducted in partnership with Kansas State University, showing that blocking middle seats in airplanes has led to a 23%-57% reduced chance of exposure to the COVID-19 virus.

The news has been ill-received by airlines and airline lobbying groups who have been citing the numerous studies that show the low transmission rates aboard airplanes. The one thing the airlines keep forgetting to mention, however,  is that these studies were done during an era when airlines were blocking middle seats.

As stated by Bloomberg, the reason for selling middle seats again has nothing to do with passenger safety, but instead it is all about the airlines’ desire to make more money. In the article, it states, “Delta decided to end the policy amid rising evidence of a long-expected resurgence in travel demand as U.S.”

However, it’s also important to note that the risk of travel for people who are fully vaccinated is radically different from those who are not vaccinated. This is another reason why airlines feel it’s ok to sell middle seats. But according to the CDC, only 23.6% of Americans are fully vaccinated, proving that it’s way too early to make policy changes based on the fact that “everyone” will be vaccinated at some point in the future.

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