For the experienced traveler, picking out a seat assignment is crucial, especially now with fears of contracting a deadly virus from the passenger next to you.
If traveling to Iceland, you’ll want the window seat to capture all the breathtaking views of the heavens above and earth below, but for a short trip to Chicago, you’ll want an aisle seat to exit quickly.
Meanwhile, in the dreaded middle seat, it’s difficult to see out the window, you have to nudge the sleeping business man sitting next to you to use the bathroom, and it feels like you’re completely enveloped in germs from both sides. But that may all soon change.
With news of the coronavirus and stay-at-home orders everywhere, many travelers were forced to rearrange their flight plans.
After weeks of being at home while government officials all over the world work on a plan to deal with the spread of COVID-19, airlines and travelers alike are beginning to look at the logistics of boarding a plane once again.
With every major catastrophe involving air travel, there’s always a change in safety and security procedures for staff and patrons.
Brian Foley, writing for Forbes, reminds us of the post-9/11 chaos in airports where tweezers were confiscated, people were randomly pulled out of line where every square inch was checked for dangerous materials in front of gawking passengers, and bomb dogs were commonly run up and down the aisles of your plane.
So it will come as no surprise that there’ll be drastic changes in airports and on airplanes in a post-coronavirus world.
One of the prevailing ideas going forward is to eliminate passengers sitting in the middle seat altogether.
According to Forbes, EasyJet, Wizz Air, and Delta Air Lines have already begun discussions on eliminating the middle seat to encourage social distancing.
So I guess we are pretending that one foot of space between passengers all stuck in the same box of recycled air is going to make a difference.
American Airlines, which is notorious for ranking low on all fronts, is planning on blocking half of their middle seats; which is easy to do on a 200 passenger airplane only carrying five people.
If this trend were to continue, limited seats means an increase in airfare to make up for the loss of profit – we all know the airline isn’t going to take the brunt.
Former Spirit Airlines CEO Ben Baldanza was asked during an interview on CNBC how airlines could even consider still seating three in a row after the coronavirus outbreak, and he responded it is a “price point”.
“Now if you want to say no one can sit in the middle seat anymore, that’s going to take a third of the seats out of the airplane but the cost of the flight isn’t going to go down by a third. So everybody has to pay 33 percent more,” says Baldanza.
Travelers are going to be uncomfortable flying after COVID-19, so paying the increased cost of keeping a little more distance from their fellow passenger may be just what the industry needs to pick flights back up again.
According to Baldanza, it is not so much the person next to you that puts you at risk for contracting a virus, but how the plane circulates air and how well the plane is disinfected after each flight.
Along with the change in seating arrangements, we’re also likely to see a shift in “biological safety,” Baldanza says, where attention to clean surfaces and staff training for the coronavirus are the new normal.
When the travel bans are lifted and people begin to crave the waves and sun more than they fear the virus, it’s likely we’ll see the middle seats vacant – for a time.
History has shown us that money talks louder than lessons learned, and we’ll likely see the middle seat make a roaring comeback sooner than later.
Until then, enjoy not worrying about getting stuck in the dreaded middle seat on your next flight.