Here’s How Some Airlines Are Practicing Social Distancing

Governments and health agencies around the world are urging people to practice social distancing. However, in confined areas, it can be difficult to do so. This is especially true onboard aircraft. However, some airlines are taking measures to practice social distancing onboard when it comes to passenger seat assignments. Here’s what these carriers are doing.

Social distancing
Airlines around the world are starting to offer social distancing onboard aircraft. Photo: Simple Flying

Air New Zealand

Air New Zealand is one airline that is practicing social distancing onboard as announced on its website. Passengers are probably seeing some different seating onboard. On regional jets, including ATR and Q300 aircraft, passengers are being allocated window seats to keep adjacent aisle seats open in the 2-2 configuration.

ATR Air New Zealand
Onboard regional ATR aircraft, Air New Zealand is assigning window seats first. Photo: ATR

On jet aircraft, like A320 family planes, Air New Zealand is working to keep middle seats open. These jets are in a 3-3 configuration. Where possible, the airline is working to keep families and passengers traveling together seated together where possible.

Air New Zealand
Air New Zealand is keeping some middle seats free on Airbus A320 jets. Photo: Airbus

Delta Air Lines

Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines is also working to employ social distancing onboard aircraft. This includes giving passengers the opportunity to sit next to empty seats. Delta has also updated its onboard operational weight and balance policy to allow for onboard distancing. On the ground, customers can also reach out to gate agents or else use the Fly Delta app. Gate agents are able to help reassign seats to maintain social distancing closer to departure.

Delta social distancing
Delta has updated its onboard operational weight and balance policy to allow for social distancing onboard aircraft. Photo: Simple Flying

Virgin Australia

Down under, Virgin Australia is allowing customers to move to a vacant seat where possible.

Virgin Australia
Onboard, Virgin Australia is giving customers the option to move next to vacant seats where possible. Photo: Virgin Australia

In addition, onboard, the carrier is also working to keep hand sanitizer and face masks available on flights.

Virgin Australia
Virgin Australia is also allowing customers to move next to a vacant seat when possible. Photo: Virgin Australia

Cathay Pacific

The South China Morning Post reports that Cathay Pacific has also joined into this movement. The Hong Kong-based carrier will offer passengers the option to sit next to an empty seat.

Cathay Pacific
Cathay Pacific is giving passengers the option to sit next to an empty seat. Photo: Simple Flying

However, the airline is also significantly cutting its international route schedule– flying only to 12 cities soon.

United Airlines

One Mile At A Time reports that United is asking gate agents to help encourage social distancing onboard. This gives agents the opportunity to move customers around the aircraft prior to departure. Or else, onboard, customers can move around when flight loads permit. Whether they let people move from economy to extra-legroom economy is a different story.

United is allowing gate agents to move passengers around prior to departure. Photo: Simple Flying

What should I do if I have to fly?

While almost every health organization is encouraging passengers to avoid nonessential travel, there are still some people who have to fly home or else travel for some other reason. If you do have to fly, it is best to monitor your seat assignment through the airline app. Otherwise, you can appeal to ground staff including check-in and gate agents for the opportunity to move your seat.

Onboard the aircraft, the situation may change. There could be no-shows or there could be people who are assigned seats on the aircraft last-minute. If that is the case, you can reach out to a flight attendant to see if there are other seat options to maintain social distancing.

While this is a stressful situation, it is important for passengers to keep their cool and cooperate with airline staff. In the case where relocation is not possible, taking personal hygiene steps is also one way to help reduce your risk of contracting the virus.

Are there other airlines also practicing social distancing onboard? Have you experienced any of these policies? Let us know in the comments!