American removes capacity caps, increases health safety measures

Jun 26, 2020

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American Airlines will begin fully booking its flights again as demand allows starting next month.

The carrier has already come under criticism for flying relatively full flights during the coronavirus pandemic, but is moving ahead with plans to sell all available seats on every flight as of July 1. That brings it in line with United Airlines, which was not observing any capacity caps. Delta, Alaska, JetBlue and Southwest are among carriers that continue to limit the number of passengers on every flight, at least for now.

American said it will continue allowing passengers to move to less-crowded flights for no fee when such options are available, and that it will alert passengers when their flights are full.

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American is lifting the capacity caps in conjunction with some newly-announced health safety measures, including a travel health advisory panel and a pre-departure symptom questionnaire.

The panel is a partnership with Vanderbilt University, and its members will advise the airline on public health best-practices, including the most effective cleaning procedures.

Related: American Airlines pilots union wants the government to buy middle seats.

Since the start of the pandemic, airlines across the board have updated and emphasized the rigor of their cleaning routines. Many carriers have put out detailed graphics or videos to show how aircraft are disinfected between every flight, and have provided information about onboard air filtration systems in an effort to reassure passengers that the risk of onboard infection is low.

American’s cleaning procedures include hand-cleaning seat buckles, seats, tray tables and other surfaces, and applying an electrostatic spray inside the aircraft every seven days, which the airline said kills 99.9999% of viruses and bacteria within 10 minutes.

Related: American tries to avoid the ‘old airline playbook’ on furloughs even as it shrinks.

Beginning June 30, passengers on American will also be asked to certify during check-in that they have been COVID-19 symptom-free for at least 14 days. Online and airport kiosk check-in interfaces will include a symptom checklist.

Related: Airlines are increasingly requiring health checks before flying. Alaska is the latest.

“Our customers trust us to make every aspect of their journey safe. We won’t let them down,” Alison Taylor, American’s chief customer officer said in a statement. “We will continue to refine and update our practices based on the latest information from health authorities and our own Travel Health Advisory Panel.”

The airline will continue requiring passengers to wear masks throughout their flights, and American said it will restrict travel privileges for passengers who refuse to comply.

Review: American Airlines Flagship First class from Dallas to Hong Kong on the 777-300ER.

Featured photo by DANIEL SLIM/AFP via Getty Images.

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