SFO (KPIX 5) — After first capping the number of people on flights in April amid the pandemic, American Airlines on Saturday announced it will soon ditching its effort to promote social distancing on its planes.
Starting July 1, as more people travel, American Airlines will start booking flights to capacity. It will also ask customers to certify that they have been free of COVID-19 symptoms for the previous 14 days.
“I’m an executive platinum flier with American Airlines, but candidly something like this just doesn’t make me want to fly with them,” said Kevin Gonzalgo, who is visiting from Philadelphia. “I’d rather look for safer alternatives to get home.”
American joins United in in making the move. Airlines including Delta, JetBlue and Southwest are still blocking middle seats or limited the number of seats for sale.
“Every little bit helps so if they’re trying to cut back on safety, I don’t know I don’t think that’s a good thing,” said Joey Fangon of Daly City.
Clint Henderson is Senior News Editor with travel advice website the Points Guy.
“Airlines can’t really be profitable, if they’re not selling all their seats,” said Henderson. “It’s kind of surprising how quickly it happened. Like we thought maybe the fall and winter is when we’d see airlines stop social distancing.”
United just unveiled new cleaning protocols as part of its effort to fight the spread of COVID-19. American also touts extensive cleaning measures.
The change in booking policy comes as dozens of states have reported a jump in cases from just two weeks ago.
Former CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden thinks some states reopened too soon.
“These are places that opened while they were still increasing, and to open while you’re increasing is kind of like leaning into a left hook. You’re going to get hit,” said Frieden.
American says it will fly about half of its domestic schedule and nearly 20 percent of international in July compared with a year earlier.
“Airlines are just a place where we’re going to have to be extraordinarily cautious, but it’s not really practical to properly social distance,” said Henderson.
American says it allow them to move to more open flights when available at no cost.