Amer­i­can Air­lines will book to full ca­pac­ity

Chicago Tribune (Sunday) - - BUSINESS - By David Koenig

DAL­LAS — Amer­i­can Air­lines will start book­ing flights to full ca­pac­ity this week, end­ing any ef­fort to pro­mote so­cial dis­tanc­ing on its planes while the United States sets records for new re­ported cases of the coro­n­avirus.

Amer­i­can’s move matches the pol­icy of United Air­lines but con­trasts sharply with ri­vals that limit book­ings to cre­ate space be­tween pas­sen­gers to min­i­mize con­ta­gion.

Amer­i­can said Fri­day that it will con­tinue to no­tify cus­tomers if their flight is likely to be full, and let them change flights at no ex­tra cost. The air­line said it will also let pas­sen­gers change seats on the plane if there is room and if they stay in the same cabin.

Since April, Amer­i­can has lim­ited book­ings to about 85% of a plane’s ca­pac­ity by leav­ing about half the mid­dle seats open. How­ever, the air­line will start sell­ing ev­ery seat it can be­gin­ning Wed­nes­day.

Delta, South­west, Alaska and JetBlue say they block mid­dle seats or limit ca­pac­ity, with some of them promis­ing to con­tinue that prac­tice through Septem­ber.

United and now Amer­i­can, how­ever, have taken a dif­fer­ent ap­proach, ar­gu­ing that other steps they take — in­clud­ing stepped-up clean­ing pro­ce­dures and re­quir­ing all pas­sen­gers to wear face cov­er­ings — elim­i­nate the need to block some seats. United CEO Scott Kirby has said so­cial dis­tanc­ing is im­pos­si­ble on planes any­way; that even with empty mid­dle seats, peo­ple are less than 6 feet away from each other.

Pho­tos and videos of full flights on Amer­i­can and United have drawn crit­i­cism for their lack of so­cial dis­tanc­ing.

The num­ber of con­firmed new COVID-19 in­fec­tions in the U.S. hit an all-time high of 40,000 on Fri­day, eclips­ing a record set on April 24, ac­cord­ing to Johns Hop­kins Univer­sity.

Amer­i­can is based in Fort Worth, Texas, where Gov. Greg Ab­bott on Fri­day rolled back some steps the state had taken to re-open its econ­omy.

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