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Canadians worry about travel as Westjet and Air Canada sell middle seats

Last Updated Jun 29, 2020 at 7:31 am PDT

CALGARY (CityNews) – The middle seat on flights has been left empty for months, so flyers can physically distance as they travel.

Now, Canada’s two biggest airlines are ending that policy and that has travellers feeling very nervous.

Some people on social media have said they’ve now cancelled flights because of the change, some demanding refunds.

One man said on a recent flight, he was worried even though there was space.

“Like sniffling or sneezing, who knows if they were sick or not.”

The airlines point to health recommendations from the International Air Transport Association.

The trade group called for an end to in-flight physical distancing rules last month, proposing a range of other measures instead.

However, some people believe, it’s nothing short of a growing hunger to restore revenues.

“While everyone else is at risk, they’re just worried about the profits, they wanna fill the whole plane right?” said one traveller.

The new policies also undermine Transport Canada’s guidance to airlines that physical distancing is a key factor in preventing the spread of COVID-19 on flights.

Epidemiologists say airflow in airports and cabins is what’s crucial adding once the virus is on your flight, it has a chance to spread and then there’s always the X-factor of asymptomatic carriers of the virus.

But one infectious disease expert said filling flights isn’t necessarily life or death.

“Through the selection of travellers by a screen for symptomatic illness and the use of appropriate personal protective equipment, we will be reducing risk,” said Michael Parkins with the University of Calgary.

The changes come into effect in July, meaning as of Canada day, passengers will have a closer neighbour in flight.


-With files from CityNews