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United Flies Doctors for No Charge and With Little Social Distancing

United Flies Doctors for No Charge and With Little Social Distancing
United and several other airlines have promised to help passengers social distance when they have to fly during the coronavirus pandemic. But a photo of a very full United Airlines flight has been making its rounds around the internet prompting passengers to again ask: what are airlines doing to help passengers stay six feet apart?

The photo in question

The photo making its rounds around the internet was taken by Dr. Ethan Weiss who flew United on his way home to San Francisco from weeks of working in New York City hospitals on the front lines of the battle against the coronavirus. He was part of a group of 25 doctors and nurses that United flew for free.
In the photo, you can clearly see that most of the seats on his United Airlines flight are filled.
Shocked and concerned for his safety, Dr. Weiss wrote, “This is the last time I’ll be flying again for a very long time.” To someone who responded to his comment in the thread, he added “I have to be tested anyway but this is insane. 6 hours like this.”
A United spokesperson declined to comment on just how many people were on Weiss’ flight but said that it “did have a higher than average load factor but it still departed with empty seats.” The spokesperson added that their passenger load was higher than usual because of the “additional 25 medical professionals on board who were flying for free.” The spokesperson went on to note that, with the notable exception of this flight, most of United’s flights are operating at less than half of capacity.

Some Clarity on United’s Policy

United Airlines recently announced that it would be making some middle seats unavailable for passengers to select on flights to help them social distance from their neighbors. However, United has also said that “we cannot guarantee that all customers will be seated next to an unoccupied seat, based on historically low travel demand and the implementation of our various social distancing measures that is the likely outcome.”
View Comments (4)


  1. glob99

    May 11, 2020 at 6:47 pm

    United’s policy is to sell as many seats as possible. Social distancing is only when it is convenient for United.

  2. Dougg

    May 12, 2020 at 7:26 am

    I have read this exact same article on another web site. I wonder if FlyerTalks’s article is being plagiarized or if FlyerTalk is plagiarizing other web sites?

  3. kkua

    May 12, 2020 at 11:05 am

    Very underhanded empty promises!

  4. arcticflier

    May 13, 2020 at 5:19 am

    They were medical staff and knew very well the risk of exposure when they saw the seat map and when they boarded.

    Why didn’t any of them decline passage and rebook when there was less risk of exposure?

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