NEWARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — Despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, travel experts say the number of passengers getting on planes is increasing.

CBS2’s Cory James found out recently what rights you have if you feel your flight may make social distancing impossible.

Would you get on a packed plane right now? James showed video to some people at Newark Liberty International Airport on Tuesday, showing passengers on a recent filled-up American Airlines flight.

“I’d probably be hesitant to board a plane that’s full right now,” added Greg Michelson of Newark.

American Airlines tweeted the passenger and said it encourages people to always check with crew members for a possible seat change.


But as more people begin to travel, social distancing on planes during the COVID-19 outbreak could be more of a problem. This month, companies like American Airlines cut back on at least 60% of their flights, and starting in May some are reportedly planning to suspend more.

“If you feel anxious, don’t get on board,” said Jonathon Breeze, the CEO of Aardvark Compare, a company that specializes in travel insurance.

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Breeze said when booking a trip look for cheaper flights because they are often emptier. However, he told CBS2 if the plane ends up being full, ask the gate attendant to switch to a different flight or a row with fewer people.

“The airline has no contractual obligation because you feel uncomfortable, but what the airline will do is try to help you, a customer,” Breeze said.

A moral obligation that New York-based travel expert Francesca Page said some are starting to show.

“Airlines are implementing new safety measures [that] JetBlue kind of started. American Airlines is following with things like actual members of the aircraft wearing masks, themselves, and they might be able to hand out masks as well,” Page said.

Signs of change as we all adjust to a new normal in the middle of a global pandemic.

Travel experts also say another option is you can fly first class, which will help your social distance by giving you more space between you and another passenger.

  1. Greg M says:

    I am quoted in this article, saying that “I would be hesitant to board a flight.” This reporter and news organization was just looking for the soundbite that fit their narrative. It was a much longer conversation and they take one quick “line” out of the entire conversation in a way that misrepresents the conversation as a whole. I was actually expressing my thoughts, that we (in the travel industry) are all adjusting to the new normal, and working on how to make traveling as safe as possible for everyone – passengers, employees, etc. Everyone involved in travel wants to make traveling as safe as possible. It is what the public is demanding, and it will be necessary in order to get people comfortable to start flying again. I am a business owner who relies on airport traffic in order to operate. I understand the concerns from the public to get back on planes. The airline industry needs to do everything they can to make the public feel safe to fly again and I am confident that they are doing this as it is now about survival (in the short term while the virus is around) for the industry.

    The facts are some airlines are starting to implement mandatory masks for passengers and crew, and I think other carriers will follow. Most flights are flying at very low capacity and the airline workers are doing everything they can to spread out the passengers on planes. Airlines and Plane Manufacturers are testing the airflow during a flight to get a better understanding of what measures to further implement. Airplanes have advanced airflow filtration systems that filter all the air on a plane every 2-3 minutes. TSA is looking into what it can do – testing, taking temperatures, etc. Everyone in the airport industry is scrambling to see what can be done to make flying safer, and the plausibility of implementing any measure as quickly as possible. Is testing everyone who travels possible? Probably not, based on the information that I have read.

    I only wish that the conversation would change to a constructive dialogue, rather than looking to scare the public. The media should be working on educating the public of what measures should be put in place, which would lead to safer travel. We need to understand that there will be a percentage of the population that will want and/or need to travel. How do we make travel safe for those people? Those who are at high risk with this virus might want to wait it out until there is a vaccine or until the numbers of infections come down. Ending the article, suggesting that travel industry experts are suggesting that people should look to fly first class, as an option is completely out of touch and unreasonable (there are 3-6 First class rows on most flights and costs 3-4X’s as much). They might as well suggest that we all travel on private jets. I hope to read an article in the future that suggests how to make travel safer during this unprecedented time. WIth constructive dialogue that gives plausible suggestions of how to navigate through this unprecedented time.

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