How United Airlines Is Social Distancing Passengers

How United Airlines Is Social Distancing Passengers


While many people are social distancing, there are some people still flying. Hopefully it’s for good reason, but for the time being many airlines are still operating some flights, and for the most part there are at least some people on them.

Airlines are taking precautions in different ways

We’ve seen different airlines take different precautions in light of the current situation. Many airlines have reduced onboard service and given their crew more protective gear, and airlines like Alitalia are even requiring passengers to wear face masks, unless there’s at least one meter between passengers (which seems like an odd policy, but…).

But still, in general it can be hard to social distance on planes, especially given that airline cabins keep getting tighter.

United Airlines helping passengers social distance

While I question the execution of this, I at least appreciate the concept. United Airlines is asking gate agents to do what they can to help passengers social distance. As it’s explained in a memo to employees:

Social distancing on the aircraft: In light of recent direction from the CDC to practice social distancing, we would like to give customers the opportunity to do so onboard our aircraft when flight loads permit. When feasible (e.g., light loads and time permits), our CSRs will be proactively reseating customers prior to door closure. This will decrease the anxiety of travelers and allow us to support accurate records and weight and balance of the aircraft.

This is a great concept, though of course it all comes down to gate agents to execute on this. Given that they’re usually overworked, I question how often we’ll actually see gate agents proactively reseat people.

For that matter, I wish gate agents in general would be more deliberate with seat assignments, especially last minute for standbys. But that’s a whole different story…

United Airlines also asking passengers to practice good hygiene

In addition to this, United Airlines has added a pre-flight announcement, imploring passengers to practice good hygiene:

“At United, safety is our highest priority. During today’s flight, let’s all do our part to safeguard the health of each other. Please cover your mouth with a tissue if possible when sneezing and or coughing and use an air sickness bag located in the seatback pocket to dispose any items. If tissue is not available, please cover your nose and mouth with a bended arm. We truly appreciate your understanding and cooperation during this time.”

Bottom line

I appreciate the thought behind what United Airlines is doing here. It’ll be up to gate agents to make this happen, but hopefully with emptier flights that’s a possibility. From the perspective of an airline, it’s better for all of this to happen before departure for weight and balance.

This reminds me of back in the day when United would block middle seats for elite members, and they’d only be unblocked if the flight was full — good times!

To those who have flown in the past few days, what has your experience been with social distancing?

(Tip of the hat to @BrianSumers)





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