Airline Future is Empty Middle Seats Now and Business Class Only Later

Wizz Air is considering flying with empty middle seats to enable social distancing while on flights. This would need to be combined with all passengers have masks and other sanitizing and safety products.

Social distancing could remain the new normal. Planes will have higher per seat prices and fewer passengers per plane. They will need to charge 120 people what 180 people used to pay in order to have an economic flight.

Economy airfare would need to be 50% to 100% more expensive.

It can cost about $20 million per plane to reconfigure an aircraft cabin.

Airlines that survive would need to adapt to lower passenger volumes and providing safe flights.

Packing people into the current economy in relative complete safely would require all passengers to travel the way some Taiwanese passengers travel to and from coronavirus hotzones.

SOURCES- Reuters, Forbes, Travel Update, NPR, AP, Analysis by Brian Wang
Written By Brian Wang,

32 thoughts on “Airline Future is Empty Middle Seats Now and Business Class Only Later”

  1. Recent half baked idea for a business in this economy, by using idled planes…

    Resurrect the 747 flying aircraft carrier concept as an electric package delivery drone mothership for high speed package delivery. Cruise over an area, drop UAV’s that deliver packages which then boost climb back to be recaptured by the mothership. DARPA Gremlins program is showing this is somewhat feasible, and the original 747 carrier had microfighters being captured by a hard dock trapeze as well.

    Sure it’s insane, but these are not normal times…

  2. We already have a system of self-replicating intelligent nano-machines. Its call an immunity system. It ain’t perfect but it has keep enough of us alive to perpetuate the species.

  3. Funny, this article is saying pretty much exactly what my wife suggested would have to happen . . . except that she is not affiliated with the airline industry and said it on March 13th.

  4. Fever screening is inadequate. Useful, but inadequate.
    The virus is transmittable before people show symptoms, or a asymptomatic. So while fever screening may spot some carriers, it won’t spot them all.

  5. I don’t understand why people complain that economy isn’t as nice as business class, and they’d be happy to pay business class prices.

    You’ve always been able to travel by business class. Why didn’t you just pay the extra price and get the extra room? If you did, then why do you care that livestock class is squashed in to get the lower prices?

    The simple solution to eating is “don’t”. It isn’t as though it’s good food. (Yes, 2019 airline food was a vast improvement on 1980 airline meals, but they are nothing you’d miss.) Even the longest flights are less than 20 hours. No big deal.

    Probably need some sort of drinking water bladder in your isolation suit.

  6. If this means a return to the golden age of airline travel, where even economy seats were large and roomy, and had some separation between seats, I’d be all for it. More expensive of course, but business class effectively becoming standard again would be nice.

    The unfortunate thing is air isolation though, it all falls over when people have to eat and thus take off the masks. But perhaps having airline provided full face masks like those 3M Versaflo PAPR rigs, where you connect the pipe to aircraft air vents, on shorter flights might be tenable, as the airlines were already trying to cut out food and beverage services. Though that assumes the recycled air feed is sent through a HEPA filter. For longer flights, pre-flight testing should allow results to be available before landing, so people could get quarantined or be on their way…

  7. If they didn’t price gouge for business class seats I’d fly them now. If all the seats in the future are business class then the prices will have to be fair or few will fly.

  8. Doable. Tests are not 100% accurate though. And then there is getting to the testing area, waiting in line to be tested, sitting around for results…all of which might put you at risk.
    How about they test everyone as they arrive at the airport coming to get dropped off. Have it so they cannot get out of their cars until we know they are clean.
    Then you have aircraft arrivals. If you test them, what do you do with the positives? How do you prevent them from infecting anyone?
    I am not trying to say this is a bad idea, just that it would not work by itself well.

    Need these dang machines for all the nursing homes. Test all the employees daily.
    Nursing homes make a lot of money. They try to drain every dollar of savings a person has…take their house…just awful. And if you had the machines you could test any visitors as well. And thus have visitors again.
    Sometimes these regular visitors are very important to raising the quality of life in these homes.

  9. Stupid solution. I would have soft 10 mil transparent plastic zones for each seat. They have those little vents above your head. It would be in the tent. This would still reduce seating, but people would feel much more secure with their own little bubble. You have to bring people into the plane much slower.
    If things go on, redesign the interior of the plane and just have little bunks and 2 or 3 isles where there was 1 before…forget the seats. Bunks can go 3 or 4 high. Each bunk would have its own sealed environment, monitor, phone, water dispenser. The bunk can be inclined 10 degrees. Enough so you can lift your head and drink water or whatever, but not so much that you would slide down if you fell asleep. A ladder is used to get in the upper bunk. Elderly get the middle (easier to get in and out) bunk. Young and fit get the bottom as you have it near the floor. Maybe pad the floor a bit so if people fall or roll out, they don’t injure themselves. You can still have seat belts and such. The inclined bunks are probably safer in an accident anyway. There should not be several people going to the restroom at the back of the plane at the same time. The flight attendants could wear comfortable powered respirators…something more like a transparent bag over their heads than a muzzle over their face. If you need to use the restroom you push a button and they come and get you out of your bunk and when you return get you back in.

  10. Did you join the protest against the strict public health measures aimed at limiting the spread of coronavirus?
    Remember, anyone wearing face masks and keeping their distance from others at rallies might secretly support tyranny.

  11. This is bullcrap. Why such an investment to modify the planes and then again to change them back when the crisis is over? Just leave empty seats in between, use masks, filters and adjust the fare for the fewer number of passengers. Once the vaccine is available, they can simply go back to packing the flights like a can of sardines and reduce ticket prices again…

  12. I’m waiting for LEF (life extension foundation) to start offering the antibodies test thriough LabCorp. I’m at least 50% sure I caught this MF in late Fedruary after returning from business travel. I prefer to pay for the test through LEF than to go through my health provider/insurance company because there are just some things I like to keep private (kind of like who your sex partners are).

  13. You know, I’d be willing to pay between 50 and 75% more to get business class seating to get rid of the middle seat on flights. I started flying first class on Delta (domestic) last fall when I found the cost was less than double over economy. I always flew comfort plus otherwise.

  14. Well, the United States have already done their part: they have just retired all the funding to the World Health Organization.

    Genius move, Mr. Trump. Almost as good as when he disbanded de Pandemic Response Team, two years ago, because “a business person doesn’t like to have useless people on the payroll”. /s

  15. I hope none of you vacation plans involves crowds. Our plans involves the deck. The wife and I are going to make frozen drinks and relax. Kind of what we normally do on vacation sans the plane flight.

  16. The temperature check is a good place to start. Passenger should wear mask and gloves. When the test get fast and easy enough then implement that.

  17. I would like to hear of governments paying for parallel research for treatments and clinical trials. The government should also be funding fundamental research on the virus to identify the different proteins the virus produces and their functions and t how to block them. I know there are private companies doing some of this work but this ins’t the time to be penny wise and pound foolish. Every week the country is lock down the economy loses tens of billion dollars.

  18. Should consider installing Extreme Ultra Violet light to keep the inside of the airplane sterilized. Due to the high frequent of the light it is safe for people while deadly to bacteria and viruses. The should do the same for cruise ships and hotels.

  19. What makes you think that I ever was Ok with that war ?. In fact, if you read the wikipedia article “Protests against the Iraq War” you’ll find that my home city, Barcelona, hosted the largest demonstrations against that war, with 1.3 million persons (police estimation) protesting. For the duration of the war the entire city we protested on our balconies with “cassolades” (beating pots and pans) every single day, for months, at 08:00PM.

  20. Lest hope so, but as there is no guarantee we should plan for the worst case scenario (which unfortunately is the current one). If those plans become obsolete then hooray.

  21. You are a moron. My 47 years old brother-in-law is alive because social distancing finally allowed a respite to the Spanish hospitals and a ICU bed with respirator were available to him. If it weren’t for these lockdowns the mortality rate would have skyrocketed, perfectly treatable cases, like him, would have died for lack of ICU beds.

    Even with the lockdowns and Health treatment for everybody, around 40,000 have died to date (half of them officially, and the other half unofficially without having had a test done). Until the vaccine is ready, one to two years from now, hundreds of thousands will die, unless we find a successful treatment (which is not guaranteed, and if social distancing policies spare the Healthcare system to become overwhelmed).

    40,000 dead to date on a little country (Spain), with a strong and universal Healthcare system. Much more will die until the vaccine is ready. You can extrapolate those numbers to the US, hundreds of thousands will die in the US before this ends. On a global account, millions will die, and this is with social distancing measures, without them it would be much, much, worst.

    Don’t worry, you will find soon enough. You still don’t realize how unbelievably fast this virus spreads, and you might still think that it only affects the elder, but you are wrong.

  22. They might add UV radiation to the mm radiation that bodyscanners already emit, since UV kills the virus. People will need to close their eyes and limit exposure, but even a few seconds may be enough to kill most viruses on clothing, etc. Thorough cleaning of airports post-scanning stations should go a long way toward killing residual viruses too. There’s a UV robot that autonomously patrol grounds when people are not present to be zapped too.

  23. How bout this? Use cheap disposable paper suits and cheap face masks. Reduces – I guess – the infection transmission risk by 95%. Throw in a a HEPA filter in the airplane for good measure.

  24. This assumes this nightmare won’t end. It will. There is nothing as powerful as human spirit joined with an urgent motivation.

    This sh*t storm will come to an end when we find a viable drug that turns this virus into an annoying flu. Forget about a vaccine.

    There are a few good candidates in tests, with a lot of interest on existing, approved drugs.

    If some over the counter meds work, though, this pandemic will be over in a few months.

  25. Elon Musk, 2019: I will introduce sub-orbital rocket flights for passenger transport. It’ll be really fast and not much more expensive than aeroplanes.

    Analysts, 2019: I don’t think so. It’ll end up costing twice as much as a normal air ticket. And everyone will need to wear a vacuum suit with an independent air supply to be safe. That will not be able to compete with modern, cheap, safe, comfortable air travel.

    Airlines, 2020: So we’re going to end up costing twice as much as a normal air ticket. And everyone will need to wear a vacuum suit with an independent air supply to be safe.

    Elon Musk, 2020: I’m going to need to build a rocket every week.

  26. Don’t get your hopes up. If they can do math they will continue to pack the planes….

    A15 minute abbot labs tests cost 40 cents per test and are done on a $4500 device. Everyone could be tested right before TSA screening. Get to the airport 2:15 early instead of 2hr.

    They will just tack a $20 screening test fee onto your airfare.

  27. If someone is hacking up a lung, first class isn’t going to make me feel much better. They should just keep the planes the way they are and screen people for fever, and once we’re past customs, virus tests we don’t have to bribe the FDA for.

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