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Safest aircraft operation in COVID era: boarding back to front, empty middles, ...

Safest aircraft operation in COVID era: boarding back to front, empty middles, ...

Old Aug 16, 20, 2:26 pm
  #1  
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Safest aircraft operation in COVID era: boarding back to front, empty middles, ...

This boarding from the back is crazy. Iím on a completely full flight and sitting in row 10. When they called my row I boarded and the overhead bins are completely filled from those behind. So much for having status or priority. I get the reason but loyalty means nothing. Switching to Southwest- at least there they are actually respecting social distancing and your status means something.
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Old Aug 16, 20, 8:44 pm
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Originally Posted by avnmgr View Post
...Switching to Southwest- at least there they are actually respecting social distancing and your status means something.
Well sort of - the heads behind and in front of you are less than 30 inches away and in my experience with Southwest, the middle seats aren't 6 feet wide

Also on Southwest (in general) more people will be shuffling past you in the aisle with their nose and mouth pointed towards back of a/c as you sit facing forward.

I think Southwest gives one a nice middle seat vacancy more than much in way of real distancing.

Last edited by IAH-OIL-TRASH; Aug 16, 20 at 8:55 pm
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Old Aug 17, 20, 6:31 am
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Originally Posted by mahasamatman View Post
It's just like security theatre. Make a show for the gullible.
Originally Posted by narvik View Post
Well, it's mathematically not really rocket-science (example using 738):

1 seat occupied = least amount of risk to passenger, but least amount of profit
166 seats occupied = most amount of risk to passengers, and most amount of profit to UA

Anything in-between is directly proportional to occupancy rate.
Originally Posted by st3 View Post
.... It is a calculated risk ...
I'd love to see an actual calculation. I've only seen people speak of generalities. Nothing ever quantified. At least with security theatre, there has been some direct testing of its effectiveness. With planes, there has been direct research into your risk of being in a crash, etc.
How much is your risk of contracting COVID or dying, reduced by boarding back to front, not having someone in the middle seat, wearing a mask, wiping down a seat, having the cabin sprayed, not getting food/drink, etc. How does the overall risk compare to dying in a plane crash or car crash? I don't know, I don't think anyone knows. Scientific research can't be generalized and extended as easily as the media makes it seem. Controls exist for a reason. I don't think it is a calculated risk, it is a guess based on incomplete and perhaps incorrect information. What is sad is when people judge others based on differing "results" of their "calculation".

As for what the airlines are doing, they are private companies and free to institute whatever rules they like (provided they arent violating any laws). Whether I agree with their reasons or not, it is just another inconvenience of travel that one must live with. No different than putting up with TSA.
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Old Aug 17, 20, 8:31 am
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Originally Posted by IAH-OIL-TRASH View Post
Also on Southwest (in general) more people will be shuffling past you in the aisle with their nose and mouth pointed towards back of a/c as you sit facing forward.
Only if you're not smart enough to board last.
Originally Posted by IAH-OIL-TRASH View Post
I think Southwest gives one a nice middle seat vacancy more than much in way of real distancing.
Disagree. In addition to guaranteeing an empty middle, WN allows pax to self-space throughout the aircraft. It works better than assigned seats right now. There is in my mind no question that on a statistical basis, you are currently safer on WN than UA (excepting a UA Polaris cabin). It's simple physics. Fewer people in the same space reduces the density of aerosolized virus and thus the likelihood of transmission.
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Old Aug 17, 20, 9:51 am
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Originally Posted by Kacee View Post
...There is in my mind no question that on a statistical basis, you are currently safer on WN than UA..
Southwest DOES NOT provide recommended social distancing of 6 feet, on a full plane with middle seats unoccupied, period. Neither does Delta. I think we can agree whichever plane, UA or DL or WN, has a higher density, that is the plane (all other things being equal) that provides the highest risk. I'm pretty sure the UA plane SFO-OGG I was on was on Saturday was far safer than the WN LAS-HOU plane I was on a couple of weeks ago. I think the risk of infection is the same on similar density planes, whatever the carrier, although UA's packed F section might give it the edge, danger-wise, maybe offset by WN's more dangerous (IMHO) boarding process. Even if you board last on WN. there's a good chance you'll be shuffling towards back of the plane through the aerosol cloud of already boarded passengers
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Old Aug 17, 20, 10:08 am
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Originally Posted by eng3 View Post
I'd love to see an actual calculation. I've only seen people speak of generalities. ...
How much is your risk of contracting COVID or dying, ..., not having someone in the middle seat.
https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1....02.20143826v3

Not a huge difference.
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Old Aug 17, 20, 10:59 am
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Originally Posted by fatlasercat View Post
Unless I misread the abstract, the paper concludes it's about twice as likely to catch COVID if the middle seat is occupied. Neither case is particularly likely, which is maybe the broader point.
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Old Aug 17, 20, 11:37 am
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Originally Posted by fatlasercat View Post
Originally Posted by findark View Post
Unless I misread the abstract, the paper concludes it's about twice as likely to catch COVID if the middle seat is occupied. Neither case is particularly likely, which is maybe the broader point.
Not peer reviewed but nice to see someone is looking into it. It is also nice to see considerations of absolute risk vs relative risk.
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Old Aug 17, 20, 11:44 am
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Originally Posted by Kacee View Post
Only if you're not smart enough to board last.

Disagree. In addition to guaranteeing an empty middle, WN allows pax to self-space throughout the aircraft. It works better than assigned seats right now. There is in my mind no question that on a statistical basis, you are currently safer on WN than UA (excepting a UA Polaris cabin). It's simple physics. Fewer people in the same space reduces the density of aerosolized virus and thus the likelihood of transmission.
I'm curious how exactly WN guarantees the middle seat to be empty when they don't have seat assignments.

Without an F cabin or any type of extra legroom seating WN operates a higher density configuration than any of the mainline carriers. For example, on the 73G WN squeezes in 143 seats versus 118 on UA. They are already squeezing more people into the same pressurized tube.

WN recently rolled back some of their cleaning procedures as well: https://www.usatoday.com/story/trave...ng/5578918002/
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Old Aug 17, 20, 1:13 pm
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Originally Posted by findark View Post
Unless I misread the abstract, the paper concludes it's about twice as likely to catch COVID if the middle seat is occupied. Neither case is particularly likely, which is maybe the broader point.
Yes a bit less than double. And 2x does seem like a large multiplier, but as you say the probabilities are small overall so the difference is small even with a 2x.
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Old Aug 17, 20, 1:20 pm
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Originally Posted by Kacee View Post
Only if you're not smart enough to board last.

Disagree. In addition to guaranteeing an empty middle, WN allows pax to self-space throughout the aircraft. It works better than assigned seats right now. There is in my mind no question that on a statistical basis, you are currently safer on WN than UA (excepting a UA Polaris cabin). It's simple physics. Fewer people in the same space reduces the density of aerosolized virus and thus the likelihood of transmission.
I completely disagree. If you board last on WN you're stuck with whatever seats are left, most likely the back of the plane. Even if the middles are blocked, you still have to walk through the entire aircraft and then upon deplaning walk through the entire aircraft again after everyone has passed through on their way out the door. WN usually is, but even more so now would probably be the last airline I would consider for US travel with the possible exception of G4.
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Old Aug 17, 20, 2:36 pm
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Originally Posted by cmd320 View Post
I completely disagree. If you board last on WN you're stuck with whatever seats are left, most likely the back of the plane. Even if the middles are blocked, you still have to walk through the entire aircraft and then upon deplaning walk through the entire aircraft again after everyone has passed through on their way out the door. WN usually is, but even more so now would probably be the last airline I would consider for US travel with the possible exception of G4.
Not sure I follow logic of greater risk by sitting in the back?

If hypothetically only you and two other people are on the WN plane (one in front, one in the exit row) and you choose to sit in the back, that's higher risk than sitting anywhere on the completely full UA plane?
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Old Aug 17, 20, 2:47 pm
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Originally Posted by fatlasercat View Post
Yes a bit less than double. And 2x does seem like a large multiplier, but as you say the probabilities are small overall so the difference is small even with a 2x.
absolute risk vs relative risk is often overlooked.
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Old Aug 17, 20, 3:05 pm
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Originally Posted by econ View Post
Not sure I follow logic of greater risk by sitting in the back?

If hypothetically only you and two other people are on the WN plane (one in front, one in the exit row) and you choose to sit in the back, that's higher risk than sitting anywhere on the completely full UA plane?
If hypothetically there were only myself and two other people on the plane it wouldn't make much difference, but that isn't reality. If I have an assigned seat up front, I can be assured of where I'm sitting and then board last, then be one of the first off the number of other passengers I pass near is far less. In contrast, if I wait to board last on WN plane that is 60%, I have to pass all of those rows filled with people who have already boarded and selected their seats, then I have to trail behind all of those same people to disembark upon arrival.

Personally, I'm an even bigger fan of the 757 and anything else that boards through 2L these days because then I'm turning the opposite direction of the majority of those on the plane.
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Old Aug 17, 20, 3:50 pm
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Originally Posted by st3 View Post
I'm curious how exactly WN guarantees the middle seat to be empty when they don't have seat assignments.
They will not board so many passengers that any passengers are forced to take a middle seat against their will.
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