The International Air Transport Association, IATA, calculates that removing a third of airline seats would increase fares by up to 54%. The CEO of IATA, Alexandre de Juniac, says that airlines are fighting to survive and that to eliminate middle seats would increase costs. He adds that making up for the loss of these seats would mean higher fares. "The era of cheap, affordable travel will come to an end."
IATA estimates that for travel in Europe there would be a 49% rise. The increase would vary according to region. In Asia Pacific, for example, it would be 54%. The association maintains that the risk of virus transmission on board an aircraft is low, even without special measures. Keeping the middle seat free would, in any event, not achieve the recommended social distance, as the average width of a seat is under fifty centimetres.
The maximum load factor of an airline would decrease to 62%. The industry's average load factor is 77%. With fewer seats available to sell, the costs would shoot up. "If airlines were then not able to recover the costs with higher fares, they will fail. The world will need strong connectivity to help initiate recovery from the economic devastation of Covid-19."
IATA adds that tests indicate that the risk of transmission is low, thanks to passengers facing forward, the seats offering a protective barrier, and cabin air being constantly renewed. In the association's opinion, the use of masks by passengers and crew could reduce the already low risk of infection. De Juniac says: "The safety of passengers and crew is paramount. The aviation industry is working with governments to restart flights when this can be done safely. We will take measures, such as the use of masks. We must come up with a solution that gives passengers the confidence to fly and which keeps the cost of flying affordable."
Other measures being proposed by IATA are checking the temperatures of passengers and others at airports; boarding procedures that reduce contact between passengers and crew; limiting movement in cabins during flights; deeper and more constant cabin cleaning; and streamlined catering procedures.