As COVID-19 travel restrictions begin to lift, easyJet is planning to block out middle seats on all of its flights. This move should allow for better social distancing once the budget carrier starts flying again.
Low demand, empty middle seats
easyJet grounded its fleet of 344 Airbus A320 family aircraft on March 30th, 2020. It expects all of its planes to remain grounded until at least June.
However, once easyJet does start resuming flights, it will have the opportunity to introduce social distancing measures. These will reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission on board, as well as increasing comfort for passengers. easyJet’s CEO Johan Lundgren said to The Guardian,
“Our assumption is that load factors will not be back to normal early on, which means that we will have the opportunity for a middle-seat option, but I’m talking about this as an initial phase and nobody knows for how long that phase will be.”
How will it work?
As easyJet plans to block middle seats, passengers will have the option to sit either by the window or by the aisle.
This means, in theory, easyJet will be operating flights with a load factor of no more than 66%.
Its fleet consists of:
- Airbus A319s with 156 seats
- Airbus A320s with 180 and 186 seats
- Airbus A321s with 235 seats.
With these social distancing measures in place, the aircraft would have the following seating capacity:
- Airbus A319s could accommodate 104 passengers
- Airbus A320s could accommodate 120 passengers and 124 passengers
- Airbus A321neos could accommodate 156 passengers
As travel demand, to begin with, is predicted to be low, easyJet will be able to pull this off quite easily. However, as demand increases, the blocking of the middle seat could slowly be removed on the busier flights. The winter period for easyJet is looking promising already; bookings are up from the same time last year for winter 2020-21. This is partly due to passengers rebooking canceled flights for later on in the year.
Other airlines blocking the middle seat
easyJet isn’t the only airline to be blocking middle seats in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Delta Air Lines, a large US carrier, has already implemented a policy that means all middle seats are blocked from April 15th, 2020.
Once travel restrictions do get eased, basically every airline in the world is going to face low demand, to begin with, so many other airlines are expected to follow suit and introduce similar policies.
Every cloud has a silver lining
If you do decide to fly early on with easyJet after travel restrictions in Europe lift, you will have the same comfort as most European business class tickets in a pre-COVID-19 world.
For years, airlines like Lufthansa, Air France, and British Airways have offered European business class products which use the same economy seat, with the middle seat blocked out.
While easyJet won’t offer you the service and food of British Airways Club Europe with incredible Do & Co catering, it will be able to provide you with a similar amount of personal space and privacy. Passengers would normally pay dearly for such privileges on a European business class ticket.
easyJet’s fight against COVID-19
easyjJet has been struggling through the current climate, just like every other airline in the world right now.
The airlines has deferred the delivery of 24 Airbus A320neo family jets. It will now not receive any new jets until at least 2022. New aircraft delivery dates are expected to be agreed on in response to the rapidly changing travel environment.
The low-cost carrier has also received a £600 million ($740 million) loan and expects to draw a further £400m credit line to ensure liquidity targets are covered.
While easyJet is effectively fully grounded right now, some of its staff have been helping the fight against COVID-19 by volunteering in medical roles. Some are offering their services in the NHS Nightingale hospitals, which are being set up around the United Kingdom to treat patients.
What do you think of easyJet’s plans? Will you fly with them sooner now they’re blocking the middle seat? Let us know in the comments.