Medical Professionals Concerned About Some Airlines Moving to Full Capacity

Texas Medical Association COVID-19 Task Force member speaks out

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American Airlines announced Friday that as of July 1, flights may be booked full.

That means no more middle seats left open for social distancing.

Dr. John Carlo is CEO of Prism Health North Texas and on the Texas Medical Association’s COVID-19 Task Force.

"The reality is, for coronavirus we know how highly infectious it is right now,” Carlo said. “We've got to do the six feet of distancing. We've got to do the masks."

Carlo also served as the former Medical Director of Dallas County Health and Human Services.

He is concerned about airlines flying at full capacity during coronavirus.

"The odds once you start increasing the number of bodies on a plane, at any rate, you are going to increase the odds that somebody on that plane is infectious,” Carlo said. “So, it's not about the middle seats to me. It's about the number of people on that plane in that confined setting."

Carlo warns your seat isn't the area you should worry most about.

"When you have to get up when you are going to use the lavatory or if you are in the process of boarding or exiting you are going to come into contact with a lot of people certainly less than six feet,”  Carlo said. “So that's really the areas where you are going to have to be very, very cautious."

American, like most airlines, is doing a deep cleaning of its planes, especially high touch areas. It also requires passengers to wear a face mask.

Regardless of whether the middle seat is empty, infectious disease experts say a sneeze or cough can travel at least two rows forward and backward.

That’s why Carlo said masks are a good idea.

"If everybody wears a mask on a plane that's the optimal solution,” Carlo said. “You know because we don't know who's infected at any one time. There's asymptomatic infection. So, the biggest thing we can do is for everybody to do their part and wear a mask in that environment."

The bottom line is every passenger is going to have to make a tough decision.

"You've got to ask yourself how important is it to make that travel,” Carlo said. “Is it something necessary to do right now based on my own safety risk or can I postpone it for a later date."

American will notify customers of full flights and allow them to move to a more open flight without charge.

The airline will waive any change fees for travel through September 30.

*Map locations are approximate, central locations for the city and are not meant to indicate where actual infected people live.

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