US pilots union asks government to subsidise empty seats on planes

CHICAGO: A major United States (US) pilots union said on Wednesday it has begun discussing with key lawmakers a plan for the government to purchase seats on each flight to prevent passengers from having to sit next to strangers.

The idea, launched by the Allied Pilots Association (APA) representing American Airlines’ 15,000 pilots, is aimed at easing a return to pre-pandemic passenger levels while creating a level playing field across the airline industry.

As of now, some but not all US airlines are blocking middle seats or capping the number of seats they are selling on each flight in order to allow for more space between passengers.

Air travel has dropped dramatically in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

In a statement, APA President Eric Ferguson said uniform social distancing would encourage passengers to fly more and airlines to operate more flights, thus preserving more jobs in the critical aviation industry.

Under the plan, the price of empty seats would be based on industry average costs for 2019, and as immunity to Covid-19 rose, the number of empty seats bought by the government would fall.

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