A US senator wants to propose legislation blocking middle seats on planes after he flew on a crowded American Airlines flight

  • US Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon is planning to introduce
    legislation to require US airlines to block middle seats on their
    aircraft.
  • Merkley was flying on American Airlines on Thursday when he
    grew frustrated with the
    airline’s lack of social distancing policies
    and blasted them
    on Twitter.
  • After the tweet went viral with nearly 40,000 likes, Merkley
    followed up by saying he’ll work with other legislators to include
    the middle seat mandate in a larger airline reform bill.
  • Visit Business
    Insider’s homepage for more stories
    .

The US government is about to weigh in on whether airlines
should block middle seats after a senator flew on a crowded flight
Thursday that prompted him to take action.

Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon was flying on an American Airlines
flight just before the holiday weekend and saw firsthand the
airline’s lack of social distancing policies in action. The
masked-up Democrat then took to Twitter, where he posted a photo of
his flight with a dark message for the airline:

.@AmericanAir:
how many Americans will die bc you fill middle seats, w/ your
customers shoulder to shoulder, hour after hour. This is incredibly
irresponsible. People eat & drink on planes & must take off
masks to do so. No way you aren’t facilitating spread of COVID
infections. pic.twitter.com/PWG5macqgC

— Senator Jeff Merkley (@SenJeffMerkley)
July 2, 2020

“How many Americans will die bc you fill middle seats, w/ your
customers shoulder to shoulder, hour after hour,” the Democratic
lawmaker wrote. “This is incredibly irresponsible. People eat &
drink on planes & must take off masks to do so. No way you
aren’t facilitating spread of COVID infections.”

After receiving nearly 40,000 likes on the platform, Merkley
followed up with a tweet saying he would address the issue when he
returned to Washington and join an unnamed group of legislators
already on airline-related reforms.

“I will introduce a bill to ban the sale of middle seats through
this pandemic,” Merkley said in a July 3 tweet.
“And I’ll work with colleagues to include it in a package of
airline accountability reforms they are crafting.”

If Congress passes such a bill and the president signs it into
law, it would be the first federal mandate regulating social
distancing onboard airliners since the start of the pandemic. Most
policy choices have been left up to the airlines, as
Business Insider found when reviewing the social distancing
policies of the 11 major US airlines
, especially whether to
mandate face coverings for passengers.

American Airlines had been restricting flights at 85% capacity
for the month of June — as
Business Insider saw firsthand on two American flights in early
June
— and recently announced that it will be selling its
flights to capacity starting July 1. Two of its main rivals,

Delta Air Lines
and
Southwest Airlines
, are taking the opposite approach and
blocking middle seats until at least September 30, when provisions
of the CARES Act stimulus package are set to expire.

After this weekend, only four US airlines are expected to block
middle seats or limit the number of bookings for each flight as
JetBlue Airways will no longer follow the practice starting July 7.
Alaska Airlines, which has a hub in Merkley’s home state of Oregon,
is only scheduled to block middle seats until July 31.

Airlines are flying fewer flights, and they’re filling up as more
Americans travel

The early days of the coronavirus pandemic saw empty flights
become commonplace, but they’re becoming rare as the busy summer
travel season sets in.

Only two days since June 18 saw daily passenger numbers
departing from US airports dip under 500,000, according to the
Transportation
Security Administration
, though the agency hasn’t posted
numbers for July 4 weekend due to the federal holiday.

It’s still a fraction from the 2 million flyers taking to the
skies the same time last year, but airlines are also flying fewer
flights due to the decrease in demand.

American Airlines is operating just over half the number of
domestic flights this month as it did in July 2019, but said it
will
increase its flying schedule
on July 7. Rival
Delta’s July domestic flying
is also around 60% less than the
same month last year.

The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,
Robert Redfield, called out American directly during a
congressional hearing last week for its lack of social distancing
policies, according to
The Hill
.

“I can tell you that when they announced that the other day,
obviously there was substantial disappointment with American
Airlines,” Redfield said, The Hill’s Tal Axelrod reported. “I can
say this is under critical review right now by us at CDC. We don’t
think it’s the right message.”

Blocking middle seats does not guarantee social distancing of
six feet, as recommended in
CDC guidelines
, with the average middle seat being less than
two feet wide. Airline say other aircraft features, including
high-efficiency particulate air filters, are making the skies
safe.

SEE ALSO: I
flew on the 4 biggest US airlines during the pandemic to see which
is handling it best, and found one blew the rest out of the
water

DON’T MISS: I
took 7 flights on all the largest US airlines in June. Here’s what
it’s like to fly in America right now.


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Source: FS – All-Travel destinations-News
A US senator wants to propose legislation blocking middle
seats on planes after he flew on a crowded American Airlines
flight