Hawaiian Airlines blocks middle seats and requires face coverings amid pandemic

Coronavirus

Airlines are starting to change how passengers board and sit inside planes amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Hawaiian Airlines is flying some of its larger parked jets on neighbor island flights to allow for physical distancing.

The usually unwanted middle-seat may no longer be an issue for now as air carriers like Hawaiian Airlines block them to space out passengers.

The President and CEO of Hawaiian Airlines, Peter Ingram, said these changes are temporary as they adjust COVID-19 guidelines.

“I don’t expect this is something you are going to see for years and years in the future,” Ingram said, “We are going to have to get to the point to have a sustainable business where we do see people sitting in full airplanes again, but for the time being we are going to work around those situations.”

The airline is also increasing sanitation of planes, modifying its boarding to three to five rows at a time, as well as requiring passengers to wear face coverings.

The Hawaiian Airlines Association of Flight Attendants MEC, President, Sharon Soper, said airlines are starting to respond appropriately to the pandemic by making safety changes for employees and passengers.

Soper said, “Our first battle was to allow flight attendants to wear face masks and once they did, the company began to be more in action.”

Although the air travel industry is seeing a lack of action, Hawaiian Airlines’ first-quarter results showed last month’s travel capacity fell by 94% from April of last year.

Ingram said, “In January and February, things were a lot better than they were in March, March was about to basically wipeout and some everything we had accomplished the first two months of the year, I expect the second quarter to be even worse.”

Although Ingram said the company was well-positioned coming into the pandemic. The airline also received grants through the CARES Act, with it, companies agree not to furlough or reduce the pay of employees through September 30.

“What happens beyond September 30th is the question a lot of our employees would like to know,” Ingram said. “It’s really something we don’t have a clear picture yet, it really depends a lot on how big a schedule we are operating.”

Over the weekend, Airlines for America that represents the largest U.S. airlines including Hawaiian said it was in favor of TSA employees conducting temperature checks of passengers and employees who interact face to face with customers.

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