Even as coronavirus cases rise in some parts of the United States, American Airlines (AAL - Free Report) has decided against keeping the middle seat empty on flights next month onward. In accordance with its policy, this Fort Worth, TX- based carrier will see its flights filled to capacity from Wednesday. The decision to sell every seat means that the practice of social distancing while aboard will no longer be followed. Moreover, per the latest announcement, the carrier’s policy (effective since April) of limiting bookings to 85% of a plane's capacity will stand invalid.
However, management at this presently Zacks Rank #3 (Hold) carrier stated that it will continue to inform passengers if their flights are already packed to capacity and let them change the same free of cost. Moreover, passengers will be allowed to change seats on the plane if there is an option. However, they can avail of this facility only if they stay in the same cabin. Moreover, American Airlines decided to waive change fees for travel until Sep 30, 2020. Also, the carrier will ask its customers to confirm during the check-in process that they have not displayed any COVID-19 symptoms in the past 14 days.
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Although the carrier has a number of measures in place complying with anti-pandemic directives like cleaning and sanitizing planes with extra care and requiring passengers to wear face masks throughout their journey at most of its hub airports, its resolve to load the entire plane in the current scenario invited criticisms from many quarters. Evidently, travel analyst Henry Harteveldt expressed his displeasure and reportedly said that the carrier “is clearly putting its profitability ahead” of the health of both passengers and its own employees.
Notably, another Zacks #3 Ranked carrier, the Chicago-based United Airlines (UAL - Free Report) , is booking flights to 100% capacity. However, airlines like Delta (LUV - Free Report) and JetBlue (JBLU - Free Report) are still sticking to the policy of restrictive seating capacity, thereby ensuring social distancing. Delta and JetBlue also carry a Zacks Rank #3.
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