Employing social distancing on aircraft doesn’t make sense from an economic or an environmental sense, according to Emirates airline president Sir Tim Clark.
The Dubai-based carrier recently resumed passenger flights after its fleet was grounded as part of government measures enforced to control the spread of the deadly coronavirus.
With a tentative return to the skies, airlines are adopting new policies that protect passengers and crew from possible Covid-19 transmission, aimed at increasing consumer confidence in the embattled aviation industry.
However, Clark does not believe that social distancing is an option.
Speaking at a webinar session organised by Arabian Travel Market (ATM), he said: “If we start leaving seats in the economy inventory open or unsold because of social distancing, one has to accept that you have to be consistent about this. There’s no point in leaving the seat next to you empty because the seat behind you, if somebody sneezes of coughs, irrespective of the seat back, meant to be deflecting it, this will not happen. These will travel 20 feet down the cabin and into the air.
“What it basically means is that you will have to take 50 percent, in the case of economy, of your inventory out. It doesn’t stack up for anybody to do that.”
He added: “Equally, on the environmental side, it makes absolutely no sense to fly empty aircraft or half-empty aircraft, because we’re all very conscious of this.”
Emirates have initiated a number of health and safety measures on board its aircraft, including presenting passengers with their own kit, which includes face masks, gloves and sanitisers, allowing them the option to further clean their seat themselves before sitting down.
“There’s a degree of personal control,” said Clark.