(CNN) – Some passengers will arrive at the airport and find that their flight is too full to allow the nearby place to remain empty, according to data from a US industrial group.
The group claims, however, that the vast majority of flights continue to allow for many open seats, although the average number of passengers on each plane is growing.
According to the Airlines for America group, 8.5% of flights are full for more than 70%. .
This means that around 482 daily flights exceed the 70% limit. The group says U.S. carriers currently operate around 5,670 passenger flights per day, even after cutting thousands of flights from their schedules.
The 70% sign is significant because on a narrow body plane in which most of the seats are in groups of 3, the social distance generally means using only two thirds of the seats, or 67%.
When taking into account other types of aircraft and different seating arrangements, the International Air Transport Association says that social distance would mean using a maximum of 62% of seats at fleet level.
There is no federal standard that requires airlines to leave empty seats and allow customers to socially distance themselves, and the Department of Transportation recently instructed airlines that “if the passenger wishes to change or cancel due to related concerns to public health emergency Covid-19 “, the customer is not entitled to a refund or voucher.
Some airlines are making social distance on flights easier, even if their individual policies vary.
United has said it will notify customers whose flights appear to be 70% full in advance and allow them to rebook if desired.
Southwest is limiting the number of seats it sells to allow for empty seats in between. JetBlue said Wednesday will keep the middle seats empty unless a group of travelers want to sit together.
And Delta says it will add planes to limit them to 60% full.
Airlines say that most flights have ample space. About 73% of last week’s flights departed with less than half of the seats occupied by passengers or crew, according to Airlines for America.
Less than 1% of flights – 0.7% – were reportedly between 90% and 100% full, a metric that airlines call a load factor.
– 3% of flights flew from 80% to 89% complete
– 5% of flights flew from 70% to 79% full.
– 6% of flights flew from 60% to 69% complete.
– 12% percent of flights flew 50% to 59% percent
In January and February, the average flight carried 85 to 100 passengers. Now, the average flight carries around 39 passengers. That number increased significantly from a minimum of 10 passengers per flight in April and 23 passengers per flight in early May.
“Here is a strong bias towards the empty part of the range,” John Heimlich, chief economist at Airlines for America, told reporters during a conference call Wednesday. He and other officials on the call didn’t ask reporters questions.
Data from the Transport Safety Administration also show that the number of passengers is rising. It is now monitoring around 9% of the traffic it saw in the same period last year. That number dropped to just under 3% a month ago.
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