C-Force: What Airlines Post-Coronavirus Procedures Can't Mask

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In 2018, lawmakers passed legislation calling for regulators to set more constricting rules regarding minimum leg room requirements and the width and length of commercial airline seats, as well as reducing the minimum recline pitch of seats. If you have flown coach in the past, I am guessing you may have noticed, especially on newer planes and budget airline flights.

According to a Market Watch report, when the proposed new regulations were introduced, a lawsuit filed by passengers rights group alleged that anybody who is 6-feet-2-inches or taller, or more than 250 pounds, cannot fit into these new seats without encroaching on their neighbor or into the aisle. Some carriers have also reconfigured their planes to not only use this newfound space to cram in more seats but also to introduce smaller lavatories. If you are that 6-foot-2 individual mentioned earlier, I am guessing that means you will be forced to enter the lavatory from a seated position.

At the time, a study released by travel site Expedia suggested that growing discomfort of airline passengers and a perceived violation of personal space could be to blame for a series of cases of in-flight meltdowns. Many of these incidents led to arrests and were highly publicized.

Says The Travel Insider, this industry quest for more and more seats really took off in 1969 with the introduction of the 747, which instantly doubled passenger capacity per flight. Nearly all that growth was in coach rather than first class.

What was known as the "golden age" of travel in the 1930s and 1940s had led commercial airlines to experiment for a time with things like first class lounges and piano bars. It was short-lived. "The airlines quickly decided there was more money to be made by adding another 20 or 30 coach class seats than in having open spaces for their small number of first class passengers," says The Travel Insider.

This was all working out well for the commercial airline industry. Up until just a few months ago, the nation's airlines were enjoying record or near-record profits.


According to Airlines for America, the trade group for the country's carriers, since the global outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic started taking hold in mid-March, demand for air travel in the U.S. has fallen 96%, leaving domestic flights carrying an average of only 15 to 20 passengers.

As part of the economic stabilization package that Congress passed last month, the airline industry received a $25 billion bailout in the form of grants and loans to pay flight attendants, pilots and other employees. This announcement is good news for the hardworking people of this vital industry.

As we take the next step in finding the "new normal" that awaits us all as we move forward, we must wonder what it will look like for the airline industry. Recent announcements have given us some idea, at least in the near term.

Citing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's findings, JetBlue became the first U.S. airline to announce it will require passengers to wear face coverings during flights. All major U.S. airlines have adopted some form of this strategy.


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