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Consumer Reports Takes on Flights Booked to Capacity

Consumer Reports Takes on Flights Booked to Capacity
Joe Cortez

Consumer Reports wants the U.S. Department of Transportation to take definitive action to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The publication is circulating an online petition calling for safety measures including airport safety guidelines, enforcing face mask rules on aircraft and blocking middle seats.

Consumer Reports doesn’t want airlines to book the middle seat on flights, claiming it creates a major health concern for flyers. The publication is collecting signatures to ask U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao to require airlines to mandate health policies while operating flights during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Airline Safety is Your Job”

As airlines look to stay profitable despite a reduced demand in passengers, carriers have taken various actions to ensure they are flying a nominal amount of people and cargo. To those ends, three airlines began booking to capacity: American Airlines, Spirit Airlines, and United Airlines.

In addition, lawmakers have not committed to a uniform set of safety precautions for air carriers. When asked during a Senate hearing, the director of the Federal Aviation Administration would not commit to a face mask requirement, while doctors from the National Institutes of Health and Centers for Disease Control expressed “concern” for fully-booked flights.

In response, Consumer Reports is circulating a petition to call for mandatory requirements for all airlines. The group wants the U.S. Department of Transportation to take three measures: block middle seats on flights, enforce mandatory mask usage, and make airports enforce steps to limit the spread of the novel Coronavirus.

“Right now, air travel is a free-for-all when it comes to protecting against the spread of the coronavirus,” Consumer Reports writes about their petition. “Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao has the authority to set enforceable standards for airports, airlines and passengers during this health crisis, but she hasn’t.”

As of press time, the petition has gathered over 28,000 signatures. The groups hope to present over 50,000 signatures to the DOT.

Consumer Reports and Trade Unions Take Aim at COVID-19 Measures

This isn’t the first time Consumer Reports has demanded action from lawmakers due to changes caused by COVID-19. In May 2020, the publication teamed with the U.S. Public Interest Research Group to submit a petition to force airlines to provide full refunds for flights cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Trade unions have also asked airlines to block middle seats to encourage social distancing on aircraft. The Allied Pilots Association introduced their “SEATS Concept” in June 2020, which calls for “uniform social distancing.” Despite the idea, airline executives, including United’s Scott Kirby, claim that social distancing is impossible on an airplane.

View Comments (8)


  1. mything3

    July 11, 2020 at 7:27 am

    Even a mandated empty middle seat doesn’t mitigate potential spread of
    COVID-19 per several scientific inputs. Preboarding temperature checks, mask wearing discipline by crews and passengers are effective measures. There aren’t any documented transmission of COVID-19 cases from commercial airline flight operations. Mandated empty middle seats are just a “smoke and mirrors” operation.

  2. ontheway

    July 12, 2020 at 3:35 pm

    Force all government employees to fly coach and see how fast they pass the bill

  3. OZFLYER86

    July 12, 2020 at 4:51 pm

    blocking middle seats does nothing to stop spread. Aerosols can travel up to 6 or even 8 metres. Masks are way to go.

  4. FEasy

    July 13, 2020 at 2:24 am

    “Airline executives … claim that social distancing is impossible on an airplane”. That’s what restaurant owners would have said as well. We all had to adapt. Except those with big lobbying budgets its seems.

  5. jjmoore

    July 13, 2020 at 12:39 pm

    Let’s take a step back and talk about face masks: They simply do not provide protection for ANYONE. There is not a research article in a reputed journal that correlates wearing a face covering with decreased spread of the virus. Not. One.

    Take a good look inside a virology lab, and you will see what PPE is required to prevent the spread of a viral agent: Full body suit, MERV 16 filters and assisted airflow into the suit – it is not physically possible to breathe through a mask that can actually stop the virus.

    Now… social distancing on an airplane: Not possible. Keeping middle seats open does not create a positive impact.

    Lastly, there is not a research article in a reputed journal that can correlate asymptomatic active infections with the ability to spread the virus during that phase of the illness. Not. One.

    With all this being said, people need to GET BACK TO NORMAL. If you are 60 years old or more, stay home and protect yourself. If you have ANY cardiovascular or diabetic condition, stay home and protect yourself. If you are SICK, stay home and don’t get anywhere near an airplane (this should go without saying!!!).

    Anyone that thinks wearing a mask is beneficial in any way, shape or form…. is completely fooled.

  6. OZFLYER86

    July 13, 2020 at 6:18 pm

    Qantas CEO said recently, if Australian social distancing enacted on 180 seat aircraft (eg. B738), then only 22 seats could be sold. That’ll work. NOT !!!

  7. polinka

    July 14, 2020 at 12:06 pm

    jjmoore is the lone voice of reason and fact. I don’t understand the multinational desire to ruin our economies for no proven reason. I really, really don’t. I don’t get it. jjmoore, any ideas?

  8. jjmoore

    July 17, 2020 at 10:56 am

    @polinka Couldn’t agree more. Thanks.

    If only our leaders would be making informed decisions based on facts and actual risk, the economy would be open, and those most at risk would be sheltering in place until there is a vaccine ready for them. It really is a simple thing, but the liberals are bent on destroying the economy to get Trump out of office (which is not going to work at all).

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