American Airlines and United will be filling middle seats once more, despite the increase in cases of COVID-19 throughout the US.
Americans can expect to once more be seated in close proximity to strangers aboard packed flights over the 4th of July weekend, as US airlines resume booking flights to their full capacity.
Both American Airlines and United Airlines will both be booking out flights at full passenger capacity as of 1 July, despite the increasing number of COVID-19 cases throughout the country.
Up to now, most airlines had been placing caps on passenger capacity, or blocking the sale of middle seats, both to ensure social distancing onboard the plane, and as a response to diminished demand for air travel.
However, due to a modest pickup in travel demand within the US, American Airlines has announced that flights will be allowed to be booked to full capacity once more, as of 1 July.
American has made the announcement that it will be lifting its passenger capacity restrictions, ending its policy of only booking each flight to 85 per cent of its maximum capacity that has been in place since April.
Meanwhile, United Airlines has reportedly never blocked out seats or put a cap on the number of passengers allowed on board an aircraft, despite the pandemic, and was always willing to sell the flight at full capacity.
United was previously informing passengers if their flight was more than 70 per cent full, and offering them options to change to a less busy flight.
American Airlines’ announcement likely comes as a result of a modest uptick in demand for air travel, with 634,000 passengers passing through TSA checkpoints at US airports on Sunday.
While this figure is just 24 per cent that of the same day in 2019, it also marks the highest number of passengers recorded since late March, and is seven times the number of people recorded at the lowest point for air travel in mid-April.
Further, around 55 per cent of all seats available on planes were filled by paying customers in the week ending 21 June, a figure that has reportedly been steadily on the rise since April.
Meanwhile, other US airlines, including Delta, Southwest and JetBlue all continue to uphold their policies that leave middle seats empty, with JetBlue committing to the policy until at least the end of July, and both Southwest and Delta upholding their policies until 30 September.
Airlines and airports are also enforcing other measures to ensure that passengers feel safe while flying, including requiring that all passengers wear face masks throughout their journey, undertaking additional cleaning and sanitisation, and the introduction of temperature scanners throughout airport terminals.