Social distancing has been one of the primary measures suggested and enforced by governments worldwide during the coronavirus outbreak. Find out which airlines have announced social distancing measures and the ways they're reducing passenger contact in-flight.
The spread of coronavirus isn't any more likely on a flight than it is on any other mode of transport. One of the biggest fears among travellers is that re-circulated air will cause COVID-19 to spread within the cabin. However, the modern aircraft of today have excellent air supply systems that filter all recycled air and almost absolutely eliminate the chance of transmission through the air.
As in most cases with COVID-19, the most likely cause of transmission is through contact with people and surfaces. That's why many airlines have put social distancing and rigorous sanitizing procedures in place in order to minimise the risk of infection.
To find out more on what airlines are doing to clean and disinfect aircraft as a result of COVID-19, read our page on cleaned, sanitized and disinfected airlines.
Although there aren't any official regulations for airlines to follow, many airlines are setting their own social distancing rules to keep their passengers and staff safe and minimise the risk of infection. These include:
Below is a list of airlines that have announced social distancing measures in place.
Please note: this is not a complete list of every airline and there may be other airlines that have social distancing measure in place that are not listed below.
Allegiant Air is encouraging passengers not to book a middle seat on its flights unless a member of your family is sitting next to you on both sides.
Air Canada is reseating its passengers in order to maintain social distancing. Although, this rule is not mandatory and not every middle-seat will be vacant. However, the airline is requiring all passengers to wear a face mask and is allowing any passenger that isn't comfortable with the social distancing on their flight to travel on a later flight at no cost.
Alaska Airlines middle seats are being left vacant on flights flown by planes with a 3 x 3 seating formation. Aisle seats are left vacant on flights flown by planes with 2 x 2 or 1 x 2 seating formation. Alaska Airlines is also limiting its in-flight food and drink service.
American Airlines is leaving some (but not all) middle seats vacant on its flights. The airline has announced that it will leave 50% of middle-class seats vacant.
Delta is leaving middle seats vacant until at least the end of June. This applies the Main Cabin, Delta Comfort + and Delta Premium Select fares. The airline is also enforcing a back to front boarding process, to ensure that passengers don't have to pass each other when boarding. Passengers disembark in the opposite way.
easyJet is leaving its middle seats empty for the foreseeable future. The airline predicts that passenger volume will stay low in the near future, so this will be straight forward to enforce.
Emirates is allocating seats itself to ensure that seats are left vacant between its passengers unless they're travelling in a family, in which case, the family will sit together but will be away from other passengers.
Frontier Airlines is enforcing back to front boarding, ensuring that the plane is filled from the back row by row. For exiting the plane, passengers at the front of the plane will disembark first.
Japan Airlines will leave all middle-seats vacant until the end of June. The airline has also reduced the amount of Business Class seats that it sells in order to ensure no one is sat next to each other in the cabin.
Hawaiian Airlines will be ensuring that passengers board the aircraft from front to back. This will limit the amount passengers will have to come in contact during the boarding process.
Where possible, KLM will be blocking out the middle-seat on its flights. It is also reducing its onboard food and drink service to limit the contact between crew and passengers.
Malaysia Airlines is making sure that each seat between passengers is left vacant to abide by social distancing rules. There will also be line marking to ensure that social distancing is easy to follow.
Qatar Airways is implementing social distancing at check-in and also allocating seats to passengers to ensure that they are spread out across the aircraft as much as possible. However, the airline cannot guarantee that passengers will not be sat next to another person.
Southwest is continuing to use its open seat policy, where passengers can sit in any seat that they wish. However, to allow for social distancing on its flights, the airline is significantly reducing the number of seats that it sells.
United Airlines will not allow passengers to pre-select adjacent or middle seats in any of its cabins. The airline will also implement incremental boarding so that fewer passengers are boarding the aircraft at one time.
Wizz Air has plans to follow other European airlines such as easyJet when following social distancing procedures. Although the airline has not promised that it will block all middle seats, it plans to cut its passenger capacity on each plane by one third. This, in theory, would allow all middle-seats to be left vacant.