Qantas chief Alan Joyce flew in the middle seat on a flight yesterday between Sydney and Melbourne, to prove that flying is safe in Australia. The airline has recently rolled out features to increase bio-security and wants to assure passengers that social distancing is not necessary onboard aircraft.
Qantas’ CEO chooses the middle seat
On Friday, the CEO of Qantas took off in a Boeing 737 from Sydney to Melbourne, seated in-between his Qantas International Lead Tino La Spina on the window seat and Qantas Chief Customer Officer Steph Tully on the aisle.
Mr. Joyce highlighted that thanks to the new health procedures by the airline, social distancing onboard aircraft are no longer required.
Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce has flown from Sydney to Melbourne to demonstrate the airline's new COVID-19 safety procedures. https://t.co/xNpTS6oil7
— Financial Review (@FinancialReview) June 12, 2020
“It’s a very different process, and we’ve added features throughout to ensure people’s safety and health,” the CEO said to the AFR. “We want to get our aircraft back up in the air and get our employees back working again. This is the start of that process.”
What are some of the new health security features?
- Preflight – Contactless check-in, hand sanitizer stations, social distancing measures at Qantas lounges. There will also be sequenced boarding to ensure that passengers remain distanced as they board. The airline cleans aircraft after each flight, with cleaners paying close attention to each surface and touchpoints like belts and toilets.
- During flight – Masks are provided to each passenger. While the masks are not mandatory in Australia, the airline recommends that passengers wear them just in case and to put others at ease. Passengers are handed wipes to sanitize their seats if they so choose. Passengers are encouraged to remain seated for the flight and asked to keep movement to a minimum.
- Postflight – The processes that took place during boarding repeat during disembarkation and passengers are moved off in sequences to avoid crowding.
For Qantas and most airlines, there is a need to utilize all seats onboard its aircraft to turn a profit. If the carrier had to properly implement social distancing (Four meters squared space per person), a Boeing 737 would only be able to carry around twenty people, and the fifty-minute flight to Melbourne would cost thousands of dollars per person.
Is flying in the middle seat safe?
Flying onboard aircraft has been proven to be very safe compared to other ‘crowded’ areas, thanks to the way that the atmosphere cycles through the cabin. You can read about the process in great detail here, but thanks to the quick process and the hospital-grade filters, you are much more likely to pick up a virus through touching a surface than breathing the air onboard.
Reported by the AFR, Australia’s chief medical officer (whom the government has deferred bio-security policy to) has said that social distancing is not required onboard flights.
“We have not seen a clear case of transmission of the virus on a domestic flight in Australia. So while initially, the airlines were practicing good distancing, they are now occupying their seats more fully, and I know that’s one of the circumstances where we think it’s not an unreasonable choice if someone chooses to wear a mask.”
With the CEO of Qantas putting his faith in the middle seat, Australians may be encouraged to travel on the airline as the country opens back up.
What do you think? Would you be willing to sit in the middle seat? Let us know in the comments.