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American Airlines' decision to sell middle seats shows that the pandemic won't lead to more comfortable flights

American Airlines' decision to sell middle seats shows that the pandemic won't lead to more comfortable flights
Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images



At the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, people thought the new world of social distancing meant that the cramped middle airplane seat would become a thing of the past.




However, as shown by American Airlines' decision to stop blocking middle seats, it's starting to look like those predictions were wrong.




American, United, and other airlines argue that stringent cleaning protocols and mandatory masks on board are enough to stop the virus from spreading on flights.




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When a bad thing happens, it's human nature to try and find an upside — or a hope for the future.
When the coronavirus pandemic brought the world to a standstill, ushered in the age of social distancing, and indefinitely grounded most frequent flyers, the optimists focused on the worst part of modern air travel: the middle seat.
"The coronavirus has effectively killed the middle seat," a Popular Mechanics article proclaimed in May. "Will empty middle seats help social distancing on planes?" the BBC asked. Here at Business Insider, we wrote about an innovative new seat design that could create a barrier between each coach passenger — something a variety of designers have pitched during the pandemic. Meanwhile, Frontier Airlines was slammed for selling passengers the empty middle seats next to them as an add-on perk, accused of profiteering on safety.
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