United Airlines is joining a growing list of airlines to implement social distancing on its flights, in an effort to minimise contact between passengers and cabin crew amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The carrier said that by the end of April it will have implemented new seating policy changes, which will remain in place until May 31. These include:

  • Restricting advanced seat selection for adjacent seats in all cabins, including middle seats where available and alternating window and aisle seats when seats are in pairs
  • Boarding fewer customers at a time to allow for more distance during the boarding process. We will maintain existing boarding groups and priority boarding, but meter customer boarding to minimize crowding in gate area and on the jet bridge
  • Processing Complimentary Premier Upgrades at the departure gate in priority order
  • Customers who prefer to be seated together or have additional questions may contact us for reseating options

United said it would “continue to evaluate how best to proceed given the fluidity of the current situation”, and would follow CDC guidance.

The carrier has a page on its website detailing what it is doing to keep customers and employees safe during the Covid-19 pandemic (although note that some of the information above is not included on this page – it was provided directly to Business Traveller by United).

Earlier this month fellow US carrier Delta announced plans to block the middle seat on all flights in Main Cabin, Delta Comfort + and Delta Premium Select cabins.

And this week Emirates introduced new social distancing measures, with seats now pre-allocated so that vacant seats are placed between individual passengers or family groups in observance of social distancing protocols.

For a look at which airlines are implementing social distancing, and whether the measures are likely to be effective, see:

Social distancing on aircraft