When United first announced social distancing measures onboard they said they would block middle seats in coach and every other seat in first class. Many understood that to mean they wouldn’t sell those seats.
However they didn’t actually mean they would not sell seats, they meant that they would only block them initially. If they sold enough seats they would assign the blocked seats.
After passengers called them out for that sleight of hand, United said they would let passengers know if their flight would be 70%+ full so that they could select an alternate flight:
— Ethan Weiss (@ethanjweiss) May 9, 2020
But as of today they threw in the towel on all pretense of social distancing. United has unblocked all seat assignments so that passengers can select any seat on the plane in advance.
United was also blocking employee pass free riders from flights that were 70% full, but that block has been eliminated as well.
You can always buy an extra seat if you want to guarantee an empty seat next to you by making the first name of the ticket EXTRASEAT with your last name. You’ll even get double your baggage allowance.
Or you can get a middle seat blocked for free by flying on JetBlue or Hawaiian through 7/31 or on Delta or Southwest through 9/30. Those airlines are essentially forgoing any chance of short-term profit and hoping to get lasting goodwill from passengers remembering that they tried to keep them safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.
United eliminated kosher meals on all flights that aren’t to or from Tel Aviv “for the safety of our customers and crew.” Now that the guise of safety is up, will United bring them back? Or will they at least admit that like hotels going green, the real reason is always for safety…of the bottom line.