On Some Planes, Empty Rows While Passengers Crowd Together


On a June 30 flight on American Airlines from Dallas to Newark, Joy Gonzalez, an aviation engineer based in Seattle, found herself seated at a window with two older passengers beside her in the middle and aisle seats. In order to gain more social distance, she and the aisle passenger both moved to seats behind them where two rows were empty. But before takeoff, a flight attendant ordered them back to their assigned seats, telling them they had not paid for those exit row seats, which are more expensive.

A second flight attendant listened to Ms. Gonzalez’s request, consulted with the other attendants and gave her two options: Take your assigned seat or return to the gate and pay for the exit row. As the flight was on the verge of departing, she sat down.

“The irony of then hearing on the public address system, ‘Your health and safety is our top priority,’” said Ms. Gonzalez, who posted photos of the full and empty rows on Instagram. “Behind me, seats went empty and wasted while I was squished and touching someone.”

After the coronavirus pandemic hit, airlines vowed to bring social distancing to the air — even if it wasn’t the full six feet recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — by reducing capacity and blocking many middle seats.

This Post was originally published on nytimes.com

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