Leaving middle-seats vacant for social distancing will increase cost: IATA

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The International Air Transport Association (IATA) came out in support of face coverings for passengers and masks for the crew to “add extra layers of protection” while onboard aircraft. The association, however, said it does not recommend airliners to restrict the use of the ‘middle seat’ to create social distancing while onboard aircraft. “Evidence suggests that the risk of transmission onboard 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 middle seats’ empty,” IATA said in a statement on Tuesday. “IATA does not recommend restricting the use of the ‘middle seat’ to create social distancing while onboard aircraft. Evidence, although limited, suggests that the risk of virus transmission onboard aircraft is low even without special measures,” it added. The IATA’s, the agency representing 290 airlines, remarks comes after several airlines have said they are mulling the possibility to no longer sell the middle seat on their flights to maintain social distancing during flight operations. “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 onboard aircraft is low. And we will take measures–such as the wearing of face coverings by passengers and masks by the crew–to add extra layers of protection,” said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s Director General and CEO. In addition to face covering, the IATA has proposed several biosecurity measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus including limiting movement within the cabin during flight and More frequent and deeper cabin cleaning and Boarding and deplaning processes that reduce contact with other passengers or crew. “When proven and available at scale, testing for COVID-19 or immunity passports could also be included as temporary biosecurity measures,” said IATA.