Published on Thursday, July 2, 2020

United Airlines says blocking middle seat is a PR stunt

Airlines that block middle seats are doing so for PR reasons, not safety, says United Airlines.

United isn't blocking the middle seat but other airlines are continuing to limit capacity in the cabin, like Delta Air Lines, JetBlue and Southwest.

"When it comes to blocking middle seats, that's a PR strategy, that's not a safety strategy," said Josh Earnest, United's chief communications officer.

"If you're sitting in the aisle, and the middle seat is empty, the person across the aisle is within six feet from you, the person at the window is within six feet of you."

Earnest made the comments after health officials criticized American Airlines for changing policy and selling flights at full capacity like United.

Both United and American offer the option for passengers to reschedule their travel when their booked flight becomes close to full.

United is touting other measures to keep passengers safe such as social distancing during boarding, mandating the wearing of face masks and enhanced aircraft cleaning.

Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants, agreed with United's view that 'there's no way to properly socially distance on an aircraft.'

However, empty seats offer 'some flexibility to use selective social distancing by moving people in the event of a medical emergency or seat the rare passenger who can't wear a mask.'

All major US airlines now require passengers wear masks in the cabin and have started banning those who refuse to do so.

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