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Monday, June 29, 2020

Air Canada and WestJet to stop blocking middle seats on flights as of July 1, Air Canada will let you rebook if your flight is close to capacity

 News came out over the weekend that Canada's two major airlines will stop blocking middle seats on their flights as of July 1. Following guidance from the International Air Transport Association which both airlines are members of they will be not providing this one step in physical distancing measures.

Here is what WestJet provided to the media late last week on IATA's guidance
 IATA’s guidance supports the removal of seat distancing as the following protections are provided in the cabin:
  • The installation of HEPA filters to help clean recirculated air (all WestJet aircraft are equipped with HEPA filters);
  • The direction of airflow from ceiling to floor reduces forward and aft movement of air;
  • The physical barrier of seat backs.
Basically for the past few months Air Canada and WestJet have blocked the middle seat on flights to help provide distance between passengers and that will end in a couple of days here. South of the border American Airlines will be doing the same however other airlines like Southwest Airlines have committed to keeping their middle seats blocked until the end of September. Both Air Canada and WestJet will continue to provide all of their other published safety measures such as temperature checks, the requirement to wear face masks and increased cleaning and disinfection of cabin interiors.

WestJet Economy Class seating

This morning Air Canada released news that with the change in the policy of not blocking middle seats the have revised their re-booking policy for flights for those who feel uncomfortable flying on a plane that will at or near capacity:
Starting July 1, Air Canada will replace its policy of guaranteeing adjacent seats in Economy Class are empty with a new transparent process offering flexible rebooking options for customers. On flights where Economy Class is booked close to capacity, notification emails will be sent to Economy Class customers in advance of check-in and announcements will be made at the departure gate. Customers will have the option to change to another flight operating within three days or to the next available flight without additional fees. 
If you have flexibility in your travels and you get that notification you can at least take a little bit of control but you still have the unknown if the flight you are rebooking to will be less full or not. Basically you'll be playing roulette with the hopes of getting on a flight that will be less full.

Although these changes from Air Canada and WestJet don't affect me directly right now as the Rewards Canada family has no flights planned in the near future I know that if I was to fly soon I'd be in the worried camp. Seeing photos of some flights in the U.S. on social media with people using their face masks as eye masks and not covering their mouths is concerning. It's tough when you can't control things like that - we as individuals can control we what we do ourselves however we have no control of those around us and that's the scariest part - not just traveling on planes but in everything we do everyday in our lives. If I was to fly now I'd probably stick to the front end of the plane, emergency exit rows or choose the very back - I know it's not scientific but I'd try to minimize the amount of people I'm around and/or maximize the space between and of course wear a mask, not touch my face and sanitize like crazy.

How do you feel about Air Canada and WestJet opening up the middle seats? Will it make you rethink any planned travel you have? Let us know below in the comments.

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