European airlines say social distancing isn’t viable on an aircraft

Earlier in the week, EU Transport Commissioner Adina Vălean outlined potential measures the Commission could take to achieve social distancing on flights.

In a Tweet, she mentioned the possibility of blocking middle seats and face masks on flights, among other strategies for air travel.

But, Europe’s airlines say these measures are unrealistic and won’t work.

As the aviation industry grinds to a halt, European airlines and governments may need to find other ways to kick start the industry safely.

What’s happening with air travel?

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, air travel has almost completely stopped. Many airlines are facing collapse and cash reserves are running out.

Many are requesting state aid, as the number of flights has plummeted.

So, what are the plans for air travel when the lockdown ends?

It’s still unclear what the Commission’s strategy will be. However, officials are currently in the process of making a draft proposal and discussing plans to resume services.

Some airlines have already introduced their own measures on the few flights still running – such as drastically reducing the number of passengers and making face masks compulsory.

However, in the longer-term, can these proposals really work?

Airlines say the measures aren’t realistic

According to some of Europe’s biggest airlines, “social distancing is neither necessary nor viable on board an aircraft”.

In a joint letter, they say “Measures and regulations must be proportionate by reflecting the actual risk levels.” Although, they do add that PPE like masks should be available to passengers.

Health experts say that, to reduce the risk of infection, a distance of two metres should be maintained. With the size of aircraft cabins and number of passengers, this would be very difficult to achieve.

The costs are a big concern for airlines. Most need to be close to full capacity to break even, so blocking the middle seats wouldn’t be a viable option, except as a short-term measure.

The letter notes that if measures are introduced, these should be temporary or state funded. In addition, strategies like temperature testing of passengers should only be carried out by health professionals.

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