According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) social distancing is the act of limiting your exposure to others by staying at least 6 feet apart. As airlines try to recover from the economic impact of the coronavirus they have enacted many safety reforms aimed at making customers feel safe. Some of these reforms have included more detailed and frequently scheduled cleaning of the aircraft. Other reforms have been to require passengers to wear masks and to discontinue the drink service to limit contact spread of the virus.
Social distancing was one of the more difficult policies to try to put in place. Airlines run on very small profit margins. Each airline has slightly different costs, but industry averages dictate a passenger capacity of between 70 to 90 percent just to break even. Limiting passenger capacity, sometimes to as low as 60 percent by keeping middle seats unoccupied, meant that airlines are losing money on every flight they operated.
American Airlines is the first airline to announce a break in this policy. Starting July 1st they will allow their flights to be operated at maximum capacity. Summer flying is traditionally the busiest time of the year for airlines. After seeing demand drop by 95 percent compared to last year, passengers are slowly starting to return to the skies.