As the global aviation industry grapples with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, Chief Executive of Qatar Airways, Akbar Al Baker has condemned demands to introduce social distancing on aircraft because of the outbreak of coronavirus – warning it would push up the price of air travel.
According to news-sky-com.cdn.ampproject.org, the Qatar Airways boss told Sky News that “Social distancing is really not necessary in an aeroplane.
“If that is implemented, the prices for air travel go will go up extremely, because you’ll be carrying a 30-40% load factor on an aeroplane.
“(You will still) have the possibility to infect somebody else, by touch, or by rubbing into each other when you’re going back to your seats.
“So I think that social distancing really should not be implemented in an aeroplane as long as you’re going to take all the precautions you need – masks, gloves – and in Qatar Airways we are also supplying face shields and fully clad PPE for cabin crew.”
“We are taking all the mitigating factors to make sure that the air is still the safest way to travel.”
Similarly, the International Air Transport Association (IATA), and the CEO Ryanair, Michael O’Leary had earlier opposed the idea of social distancing that leave ‘middle seats’ on aircraft empty.
According to atqnews.com, IATA says supports the wearing of face coverings for passengers and masks for crew while on board aircraft as a critical part of a layered approach to biosecurity to be implemented temporarily when people return to traveling by air.
It said IATA does not support mandating social distancing measures that would leave ‘middle seats’ empty.
Evidence suggests that the risk of transmission on board aircraft is low. Mask-wearing by passengers and crew will reduce the already low risk, while avoiding the dramatic cost increases to air travel that onboard social distancing measures would bring.
“The safety of passengers and crew is paramount. The aviation industry is working with governments to re-start flying when this can be done safely. Evidence suggests that the risk of transmission on board aircraft is low. And we will take measures—such as the wearing of face coverings by passengers and masks by crew—to add extra layers of protection. We must arrive at a solution that gives passengers the confidence to fly and keeps the cost of flying affordable. One without the other will have no lasting benefit,” said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s Director General and CEO.
On his part, the Ryanair boss says the airline will not resume flights if it has to keep middle seats empty to fight Covid-19, calling the idea “idiotic”.
According to bbc.com, Michael O’Leary said he was hopeful 80% of flights could resume by October if travel restrictions are eased in July.
But he said empty seats did not ensure safe social distancing and were financially unviable.
He added that if the Irish government imposed the rule, it would have to pay for the middle seat “or we won’t fly”.