Dedicated travelers are gazing out their windows daydreaming about getting on an airplane again, but coronavirus means we're all going to have to stay well apart for a long time yet. How do those two realities square with the cramped confines of airplane travel?
According to Michael O'Leary, CEO of Irish budget airline RyanAir, they don't.
"We can't make money on 66 percent load factors," he said in an interview about proposals to leave middle seats empty in response to the virus. "Even if you do that, the middle seat doesn't deliver any social distancing, so it's kind of an idiotic idea that doesn't achieve anything anyway."
So are the harsh realities of the virus and the brutal economics facing airlines going to combine to keep us all cooped up at home for the foreseeable future? Not if Italian design firm Avio Interiors has anything to say about it. In a recent Instagram post, the firm suggested that clever design could get us in the skies again sooner (a hat tip to Apartment Therapy):
The firm has also proposed simpler divisions between all forward-facing seats that could be added to existing airline seating. This alternating forward-and-backward plan would offer greater social distancing but would require airlines to retrofit their planes at a time when they're facing an unprecedented budget squeeze. Also, the design still needs to go through the regulatory review process (it would most likely not work for emergency exit rows).
Despite these hurdles, airlines can't get back to making money until travelers are reassured that getting on a plane won't get them or their loved ones sick, so an investment in greater safety may be worth it. As of yet, though, none plan to introduce this brand-new concept.