American Airlines to book to full capacity despite some of the highest numbers of COVID-19 new cases reported

Are you hoping for some room on your flight to partially social distance? It won’t happen at American Airlines. According to the Associated Press, American Airlines has elected to start booking its flights to full capacity starting this week.

A spokesman for the Allied Pilots Association (APA), which represents American’s pilots, said the move could hurt the public’s already fragile confidence in flying.

Meanwhile the United States is setting new records for new cases of COVID-19.

Chart: CDC.

Meanwhile the Allied Pilots Union, representing the pilots of American, has made this proposal:

The Allied Pilots Association (APA), representing the 15,000 pilots of American Airlines, introduced a concept labeled “Safe Essential Air Transportation Seating (SEATS)” that is designed to enable a gradual return to pre-pandemic passenger travel while maintaining critical transportation infrastructure employment.

“Under SEATS, the government would purchase enough seats on each flight to eliminate the need for any passenger to sit next to a stranger,” said APA President Capt. Eric Ferguson. “Thanks to uniform social distancing, passengers would be encouraged to fly more, airlines would be encouraged to operate more flights, and the government would ensure the preservation of critical transportation infrastructure and associated jobs.”

The SEATS concept calls for the price of empty seats to be based on industry average costs for 2019, leaving pre-pandemic business models unchanged. No carrier would gain an unfair advantage as a result of the disbursements. As immunity to COVID-19 rises, the number of empty seats bought by the government would fall.

Ferguson emphasized that as the United States cautiously begins to reopen in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, aviation will be essential to the success of that effort.

“The return of air travel is a major catalyst for economic recovery, stimulating ancillary spending well beyond the cost of an airline ticket,” he said. “But in order for air travel to return, passengers must feel comfortable that it is safe. They must gain confidence that their government is acting to ensure that all safety standards and protocols are being upheld and enforced.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged Congress and the White House to determine which course of action best serves the public interest,” he said. “On one hand, policymakers face enormous pressure to reopen the economy, while also taking into account the importance of social distancing to mitigate the spread of the virus. Fortunately, where the airline industry is concerned, these competing pressures do not need to be addressed as an ‘either/or’ choice.”

APA has begun discussing the SEATS concept with key lawmakers, emphasizing that SEATS could be an effective strategy standing alone, and could also be integrated with any forthcoming infrastructure or additional stimulus bill similar to the CARES Act.