JetBlue says that beginning Jan. 8 it will end capacity controls on its flights. In a blog post the airline’s president and COO Joanna Geraghty said that the changes were made in response to a growing number of studies from respected institutions that found passengers aboard airliners are at “low risk” of COVID-19 transmission.
Early on in the pandemic, the carrier had blocked middle seats to allow for more social distancing. Beginning Oct. 15, the airline started booking middle or adjacent seats again, but onboard capacity had been limited to 70 percent. Capacity will increase to 85 percent from Dec. 2 through Jan. 7.
Geraghty said studies like recent research from Harvard University confirm that the layers of protection now in place make the plane as safe as or substantially safer than other, more common settings, like grocery shopping or indoor dining.
Another study conducted by the Department of Defense aboard United 767 and 777 concluded that, thanks to the cabins air handling design, “the overall exposure risk from aerosolized pathogens, like coronavirus, is very low,” provided passengers are wearing masks throughout the flight.
With the decision to drop the capacity restrictions, JetBlue is also offering additional flexibility on cancellations and changes. Customers who booked on or before Nov. 13 for travel on Jan. 8 or later are eligible for a full refund to their original form of payment if requested by Nov. 27.