Airlines announce new coronavirus policies to adhere to social distancing
As air travel increases, many airlines are now offering options for travelers worried about social distancing on packed flights.
The state of play: After previously packing customers onto full flights despite assurances that planes would be sold only to 50% capacity, American Airlines announced Wednesday it will alert travelers about crowded planes before their trips and allow them to switch to other flights.
- The announcement follows similar measures from United, which alerts customers when flights are 70% full.
- Delta said it plans to add 100 flights in June so its planes fly no more than 60% full.
- JetBlue is leaving middle seats open unless families are traveling together on its Airbus planes through July 6.
- Southwest said it will leave middle seats open on Boeing 737 planes through the end of July.
Why it matters: These are the strongest measures yet put in writing by airlines to help stop the spread of COVID-19 since the pandemic started.
- Many airlines felt pressure from social media posts showing packed flights and legislators have weighed in seeking official social distancing mandates on planes.
- Airlines also are trying to cope with massive revenue losses — American plans to reduce its management and support staff by about 30%.
The intrigue: Airlines have been highly favored by stock traders over the past two weeks, as more begin to anticipate a quick rebound in consumer demand for air travel as cities around the U.S. reopen.
- JETS, the U.S. global airline ETF, has delivered about four times the S&P 500's return over the past two weeks, though it remains well below year-to-date returns.