If you’re traveling by plane for the holidays this year, your top concern should be reducing your risk of catching and spreading the coronavirus. Of course, the most significant way to reduce risk is by not flying. As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, travel “increases your chances of getting and spreading” COVID-19. But if you must, you should know what you’re getting into. Science is precise that and social distancing reduce infections, and all U.S. airlines have policies requiring travelers to wear masks on board.
But are airlines still blocking off the middle seats on each plane?
After the pandemic began, three of the nation’s four biggest carriers ― American, Delta, and Southwest ― initially agreed to leave the middle seats empty so passengers could sit at a distance. Aout of MIT argued this practice makes a difference: Assuming that every seat is sold. Every passenger wears a mask; professor and aviation expert Arnold Barnett said that the probability of getting COVID-19 from a nearby passenger on a flight of average duration drops from 1 in 4,300 when middle seats are sold to 1 in 7,700 when left empty.
However, some airlines have since updated their policies, and others have never stopped selling middle seats. Below, see which carriers are blocking them and how other safety measures differ.
American Airlines: Not Blocking Middle Seats
American Airlines no longer blocks off the middle seat and allows planes to fly full. A.A.it will instead alert passengers when their flights are getting packed during the check-in process, giving them a chance to switch, free of charge, if their flight is eligible.
Only children under two years old are exempt from wearing a face mask, and if you decline to wear one, “you may be denied boarding and future travel on American,” A.A.’s COVID-19 policy. Face shields are not an acceptable substitute for a mask, and masks may not have exhaust valves or vents.
For flights under 900 miles, in-flight water, canned drinks, and juice are, and no snacks, alcohol, or food are available in the Main Cabin, though you can bring your snacks, for flights above 900 miles, complimentary pretzels, cookies, and bottled water will be open in the Main Cabin and First Class.
Delta Air Lines: Middle Seats Blocked Until The End Of March
On Wednesday, Deltait would continue to block the selection of middle seats through at least March 30, 2021. If you are a party of one or two people, you cannot buy a middle seat, but if you are a party of three or more, you can buy the middle seat if you wish to sit next to your travel companions. For planes without middle seats, Delta will one aisle of seats.
In October, Delta CEO Ed Bastian said in anthat 460 people had been added to Delta’s no-fly list for refusing to follow its mask requirement. Only “children under two and young children who cannot maintain a face covering are exempt,” Delta . If you have a medical condition that doesn’t allow wearing a mask, you must complete a “Clearance-to-Fly” before departure.
A snack selection is available on all U.S. domestic and international flights to Mexico, Canada, the Caribbean, and Central America. Still, meal pre-select and exceptional meal service are temporarily suspended. YYou can still bring your own snack and nonalcoholic beverage. You can only remove your mask while eating and drinking, but you are expected to put it back on immediately afterward.
JetBlue: Not Blocking Middle Seats
JetBlueit will keep flights under 70% complete through December 1, 2020. This means some seats will be blocked, but it is not guaranteed to include the middle seat next to you. From December 2, 2020, to January 7, 2021, JetBlue will bump capacity to 85% of available seats, then resume selling all available seats on January 8, 2021.
Only children under 2 arefrom JetBlue’s face-covering requirement.
Iced drinks, alcohol, and hot beverages have been, but you can still get a free snack and bottled water delivered in a pre-sealed bag in Main Cabin.
Southwest Airlines: Middle Seats Blocked Until December 1
The airline’s CEO announced that Southwest would stop blocking middle seats after December 1. The airline’s blogSouthwest will notify customers two to three days before travel if their flight is booked to a capacity where middle seats will likely be occupied. Customers will be given the option to change flights at no charge if another is available that is less full.
You must wear a face mask. Bandanas, face shields, and neck gaiters do not count, and Southwest hasnon-compliant passengers. Children under 2 are ; medical excuses are not accepted.
In-flight beverage and snack services areflights over 200 miles, but snack and beverage services are indefinitely suspended on all others.
United Airlines: Not Blocking Middle Seats
United Airlines does not commit to blocking off middle seats butit will notify customers when “their flight is fairly full” to allow them to change it.
You must wear face-covering on the plane and at the airport. If you refuse, you “may be refused travel and banned from flying United at least while the mask requirement is in place,” the airline.
United says you can bring your snack, but the food is unavailable in Economy for flights under 2 hours and 20 minutes or in First Class for flights under an hour. For flights between an hour and 2 hours and 20 minutes, passengers in First Class receive an “all-in-one” bag with a wrapped sanitizing wipe, bottled water, and two snacks. That option is available for Economy in 2 hours and 20 minutes or longer flights.