This story was updated on June 26th, 2020, at 4:37 p.m.
As domestic travel slowly and gradually takes off, WestJet and Air Canada have decided to end their physical distancing policies on aircrafts starting in July.
For the past few months, the two carriers have been temporarily blocking the sale of its middle seats in an effort to halt the spread of COVID-19.
The move aligns with recommendations made by International Air Transport Association (IATA), which has long disapproved of social distancing rules on airplanes, such as blocking the middle seat.
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.
WestJet is adopting IATA's recommendations with respect to seat distancing effective July 1st, 2020.
"As a global airline in a global sector, we are committed to ensuring our protocols are consistent with the best practices and advice available to us from around the world," the airline stated in a release.
On June 9th, WestJet released its Safety Above All program, an initiative highlighting the airline's new health and safety protocols.
READ MORE: WestJet spotlights travel hygiene program
Some of WestJet's current COVID protocols include mandatory pre-boarding non-contact temperature checks, enhanced aircraft cleaning and sanitization on all touch points in cabin, modifications to inflight service, aircraft fogging and mandatory requirement for guests and crew to wear masks.
"Safety is at the forefront of every decision we make and as our industry adapts to a new normal, we will continue to adjust our health measures to ensure the safest travel experience. This includes spending millions of dollars in cleaning and sanitizing measures, along with personal protective equipment, to ensure the safety and well-being of our guests and our people," the company stated.
IATA’s guidance is available in full here in section 5.2.
Air Canada, too, announced on Friday (June 26th) that it will revert to health recommendations from the United Nation's aviation agency and IATA.
Seat blocking isn't something that has been practiced across the board during the pandemic, however.
Canadian ultra-low cost carrier Flair, for example, has continuously listed all of its seats for sale in order to keep its prices low while offering customers the option to book a middle-seat-free flying experience in rows two to six for an extra charge of $49 (CAD).
Don't miss a single travel story: subscribe to PAX today!