American Airlines’ decision to end seat blocking has elicited
criticism from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s director.
“We don’t think it’s the right message,” Robert Redfield
said during testimony before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions
Committee on Tuesday.
American has been blocking approximately half of its middle
seats during the Covid-19 pandemic, but that policy comes to an end on June 30.
The carrier said it will continue informing customers approximately 24 hours
ahead of time if their flight will be full and will allow customers to move to
more open flights when such flights are available.
United Airlines also isn’t blocking seats.
Responding to a question from Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) about
AA’s decision to allow full planes, Redfield said that “obviously there was
substantial disappointment.” He noted that other airlines chose to continue blocking
Sitting next to Redfield, Dr. Anthony Fauci expressed
similar sentiments about American Airlines’ policy change.
“Obviously, that is something that is of concern,” said
Fauci, a prominent member of the Trump administration's White House Coronavirus
U.S. airlines are taking different approaches to blocking
seats. Delta has capped sales at 60% in economy cabins through September and
Southwest is blocking one-third of its seats, also through September. JetBlue
and Alaska have blocked middle seats through July.
In a statement, American said that it is unwavering in its
commitment to the well-being of its customers and employees.
“We have multiple layers of protection in place for those
who fly with us, including required face coverings, enhanced cleaning
procedures, and a pre-flight Covid-19 symptom checklist -- and we’re providing
additional flexibility for customers to change their travel plans,” the carrier