U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon), angered to see a packed flight he took last week on American Airlines, is promising to introduce a bill to block the sale of middle seats during the coronavirus pandemic.
Merkley criticized American, which along with United announced it would resume selling middle seats again and book flights to capacity.
Merkley tweeted a photo of his flight on July 2, which showed many blurred-out passengers wearing masks but with several middle seats occupied.
.@AmericanAir: how many Americans will die bc you fill middle seats, w/ your customers shoulder to shoulder, hour after hour. This is incredibly irresponsible. People eat & drink on planes & must take off masks to do so. No way you aren’t facilitating spread of COVID infections. pic.twitter.com/PWG5macqgC
— Senator Jeff Merkley (@SenJeffMerkley) July 2, 2020
The Senator then followed up just a day later with a two-part tweet that said “A lot of folks reacted to my tweet yesterday about the irresponsible sale of middle seats on planes saying, “Wouldn’t it be nice if someone in the Senate did something about it?” and then added his promise of legislation:
I will introduce a bill to ban the sale of middle seats through this pandemic. And I’ll work with colleagues to include it in a package of airline accountability reforms they are crafting.
— Senator Jeff Merkley (@SenJeffMerkley) July 3, 2020
According to CNN, American Airlines said in a statement:
“We are unwavering in our commitment to the safety and well-being of our customers and team members. We have multiple layers of protection in place for those who fly with us, including required face coverings, enhanced cleaning procedures, and a pre-flight COVID-19 symptom checklist — and we’re providing additional flexibility for customers to change their travel plans, as well. We know our customers are placing their trust in us to make every aspect of their journey safe, and we are committed to doing just that.”
United last week responded to the criticism of the sale of middle seats by countering that blocking middle seats was a public relations strategy and not a safety strategy.
Delta Air Lines, Jet Blue and Southwest Airlines are still limiting seat sales to help create social distancing on flights.
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