Aircraft seatmaps in the age of social distancing

If the coronavirus cloud has even a hint of silver lining, it would be a temporary end to middle seats...

By David Flynn, April 29 2020
Aircraft seatmaps in the age of social distancing

Airlines around world have had their wings clipped by the coronavirus, and those which are still flying are embracing 'social distancing' in the air.

For an industry built around maximising the number of passengers on every flight, and business models where 'load factor' dominates the equation, it's a shock to the system.

Fortunately, for at least the time being, not nearly as many people are flying these days. Travel demand has plummeted to an all-time low. But those who do fly are seeing seatmaps in a whole new way.

By way of example, Japan Airlines has shared this revised coronavirus-shaped seatmaps for one of its domestic Boeing 737 jets.

Eight out of 20 seats in JAL's domestic 'Class J' business class cabin is blocked off. In economy, every middle seat of the 145-seat cabin has been marked as unavailable.

"In order to provide customers peace of mind, JAL is preparing to add a temporary restriction on seat assignments to allow more personal space inside the aircraft cabin," Japan Airlines states.

JAL also notes that "in addition, to assure ample space between each passenger, please note that our representatives at the airport may ask you to change seats prior to your flight." 

Also read: Here's how coronavirus will change airlines and the way we fly

David

David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

22 May 2011

Total posts 64

Interesting that in Europe, business class short hall basically is the middle seat blocked out. If everyone now gets the middle seat blocked out, what's the point of business class?

11 Mar 2012

Total posts 297

Slightly better food I guess.

Air New Zealand - Airpoints

21 Jan 2016

Total posts 178

And more seat pitch compared to economy class.

QF

02 Nov 2012

Total posts 39

No difference in pitch, in BA they move the J / Y divider as demand requires!

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

06 Aug 2017

Total posts 38

I'm no scientist, so this is a genuine question I have that I'm hoping an expert who might be reading this can answer: Airlines have been saying that the HEPA filters on modern aeroplanes filter out well over 99% of airborne viruses. If this is correct, can it be inferred that social distancing isn't quite as important on aeroplanes as it is on the ground, as the HEPA filters accomplish most, if not all, of what social distancing accomplishes on the ground? As long as all the surfaces are thoroughly disinfected?

29 Apr 2020

Total posts 1

Social distancing is still relevant in the cabin - what you're trying to achieve is to physically seperate passengers apart in hope that it will minimise the chances of catching virus containing droplets from other passengers. Same kind of principles behind having unwell passengers putting a surgical face mask on, to catch on droplets. Not quite clear if SARS-CoV-2 is airborne at present.

27 Nov 2019

Total posts 59

tests have shown that in a supermarket, aerosols can travel 2 aisles, which must be 6 metres.

So the only real answer is everyone wear a mask, until corona sorted, which could be a few months yet.

Air New Zealand - Airpoints

21 Jan 2016

Total posts 178

Whilst aircraft air conditioning filters are good, Its about the physical distance between people which is the major the virus spreads.

24 Aug 2011

Total posts 653

It's hard for airlines to make money when selling every available seat still only equals a 65% load factor. Most airlines derive their cost models with assumed load factors of between 75% and 80% so I can't see how this is going to work in the medium term.

AT
AT

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

14 Sep 2012

Total posts 292

Spot on, and it won't work unless those empty seats are paid for through the other occupied seats = increase fares to compensate.

Air New Zealand - Airpoints

21 Jan 2016

Total posts 178

Yes, airfares will rise, as the airlines adjust their seat yields up, due to the reduce amount of seats available.

13 Feb 2015

Total posts 48

Which will then reduce demand presumably? If people are unsure/nervous about flying for a while, then raising prices won't be the right thing to do at all.

27 Nov 2019

Total posts 59

only a very small % of people would be scared of flying (maybe the same as those who think the aircraft will crash). Most are sick of all the media hype.

13 Feb 2015

Total posts 48

Most people I know are listening to the experts who say that gathering groups of people in confined spaces is not a great idea for the foreseeable future. Not sure why you think that's "media hype"...? Are you able to share your expertise and/or qualifications that enables you to be that dismissive?

27 Nov 2019

Total posts 59

self appointed experts ?

Don't you know how the media works ?

The media contacts many to get someone to say what they want. They then call them an expert.

For every so called expert, there is another expert, with contradictory view.

01 May 2020

Total posts 1

So, what happens if you are travelling in a group -- surely you could forgo the seat-distancing in some respects? ie: would take more seats on the plane

And, if so, how would that be priced?

27 Nov 2019

Total posts 59

initially there will be deals from hell on all airlines

27 Nov 2019

Total posts 59

your not taking into account families or people who live together. In a 3-3 B737 or A320, in one row a family of 3, 4 or 5, means 5 out of 6 seats occupied or 83

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

25 Sep 2013

Total posts 1186

Even with the middle seat blocked off you are still no more than 6in away from the person in front of (and behind) you.

16 Jan 2018

Total posts 88

But you have the seat between you and the person infront/behind you. Although the person next to you is about 19” away.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

25 Sep 2013

Total posts 1186

A seat is not an impermeable barrier to the droplets that would carry the disease. In any event, the separation space is still well below the 1.5m distance prescribed by government.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 Jan 2018

Total posts 1

Using this seating configuration as an example which class, business or economy, will end with highest fare rise to compensate for the lost seats?

How long will the airlines choose to ly with empty middle seats. How long will the airlines have to fly with empty middle seats? How long before the airlines take out the 50+ middle seats reducing the loading by between one quarter and one third - that if the Civid-19 problem comes back in a second or third wave may have to be implemented saving fuel and cleaning costs and making for quicker turn-arounds. The desigh=n of the seats may make removing the middle seat almost impossible in cattle class.

How long will the airlines choose to ly with empty middle seats. How long will the airlines have to fly with empty middle seats? How long before the airlines take out the 50+ middle seats reducing the loading by between one quarter and one third - that if the Covid-19 problem comes back in a second or third wave may have to be implemented saving fuel and cleaning costs and making for quicker turn-arounds. The design of the seats may make removing the middle seat almost impossible in cattle class but no doubt fuel costs will be the determining factor in making the decision.


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