Canada’s two largest airlines have abandoned physical distancing rules on flights.
Air Canada and WestJet are no longer keeping adjacent seats empty between passengers in economy class, including the middle seats in aisles. The return to pre-COVID-19 booking procedures came into effect July 1.
The carriers announced they would start filling flights to full capacity a few days prior. Both cite the decision is in response to a pick up in air travel and is in line with the International Air Transport Association’s guidelines.
Air Canada says on flights booked close to capacity, notification e-mails will be sent to customers in advance of check-in. Announcements will also be made at the departure gate. Passengers will have the option to change to another flight operating within three days or to the next available one without additional fees.
Despite this, many travellers are concerned about flying without onboard social distancing policies in place.
To allay fears, the airlines point to health and safety measures they have put in place. Air Canada has introduced touch-free bag check, virtual queuing and customer care kits that contain hand sanitizer, a mask, antibacterial wipes and gloves, among other initiatives. Similarly, WestJet flights have high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters that clean recirculated air and air flows from the ceiling to the floor, and temperature checks as part of heightened security screening. Aircraft cleaning has also been enhanced since the pandemic started.