A photo of the packed United Airlines flight from New York to San Francisco with middle seats occupied defying social distancing norms has sparked a debate online. Shared by a UCSF cardiologist who spent several weeks treating COVID-19 patients in New York City and was returning home, the photo raised alarm after it depicted the plane full of passengers like any other normal day would be.
Dr. Ethan Weiss took to Twitter saying that he was surprised by what he saw when he boarded a United Airlines flight and noticed that nearly every seat was filled despite the coronavirus pandemic ongoing. Further, it can be seen that dozens of passengers sat close to each other with no space in between only wearing their protective masks.
“This is the last time I’ll be flying again for a very long time,” Dr. Weiss wrote in a Twitter thread, adding that several passengers on board United Airlines flight were “scared and shocked.” Further, he added, a group of at least 25 doctors and nurses flew in the United plane for free after battling the COVID-19 and treating patients in New York City hospitals for the past two to four weeks. “I have to be tested anyway but this is insane. 6 hours like this,” he replied on a comment, giving a further view into the situation.
Also I guess a lot has changed in 10 days pic.twitter.com/mIPdxL13KZ— Ethan Weiss (@ethanjweiss) May 9, 2020
Speaking in context to the incident, airline said in a statement to a US media outlet that it could not guarantee that all customers will be seated next to an unoccupied seat. And based on historically low travel demand, that would be the case, but with respect to capacity and implementation of various social distancing measures that is the likely outcome, it reportedly added.
The controversy on Twitter erupted as only recently, the United Airlines had announced that it was making middle seats unavailable in order to adhere to the social distancing norms to make flying safe for the passengers. However, the company had mentioned not to “reduce capacity” on flights.
(Image Credit: Twitter/ Ethan Weiss)