Help! Where Is the Safest Seat on an Airplane?


My son is flying from Los Angeles to New York City for Thanksgiving. I got him a ticket on Delta Air Lines because they’re blocking out the middle seats. That said, the seating configuration of the plane is a 2-3-2. I’ve heard that window seats are safest, but there’s always a risk that someone will sit next to him. What do you recommend? Susanna

Deciding where to sit on a plane has always been an exercise in strategy and skill: how to get the most legroom, the best shut-eye, the quickest exit. The stakes certainly feel higher now.

Before we start, some numbers to put your mind at ease: In its third quarter, Delta’s passenger load factor — the percentage of available seats that are filled — fell from 88 percent last year to 41 percent this year, according to the airline’s latest investor report, meaning there are plenty of not-full flights. New data also suggests that when everyone is wearing a mask and other protocols are met, planes — with their high-efficiency, virus-zapping air filters — are less risky than grocery stores. But I’ll leave the specifics of viral dispersal to the scientists and try to outline some of the things your son can do to avoid sharing an armrest with a stranger.

Before the pandemic, the Boeing 767 aircraft that your son is scheduled to fly on would have accommodated 165 passengers in economy class. Delta currently has a 70 percent capacity limit in several cabins, including economy class, bringing the passenger maximum to about 115. Even on a flight where economy class is 70 percent, about 50 seats are guaranteed to be empty.

I asked Sandra Albrecht, an assistant professor of epidemiology at Columbia’s Mailman School of Public Health and the chief epidemiologist behind “Dear Pandemic,” a scientific communication effort on social media, if she would cancel her flight if someone sat next to her.

“Absolutely not,” she said. “As with everything with Covid-related, the risk spectrum is a sliding scale. You can think of seating as something you’d be able to slide up a notch and down a notch, but there are other things you could slide, like, 10 points up or 10 points down.”

Risk tolerance and health vary, of course, so let’s return to your question about window seats. If the goal is to sit as far from strangers as possible, your hunch is theoretically correct.

“If you’re in the window seat and the aisle seat wasn’t occupied, the nearest passenger would be in the middle section or on the other side of the plane,” said Arnold Barnett, an M.I.T. Sloan School of Management statistics professor who has studied the effects of keeping middle seats open on the likelihood of getting sick. “That’s already a distance of several feet. If everyone’s wearing masks, that’s a good situation.”

Even then, it’s not open-and-shut. Say you have selected the perfect window seat and boom: A shrieking baby sends an annoyed passenger scrambling for calmer pastures — next to your son. Or a seat doesn’t recline, causing its occupant to move. Or the plane is 70 percent full and the math works out that a handful of solo travelers have to sit together.

If you’re someone who can’t tolerate that kind of uncertainty, sit on the aisle in the center section — the aisle will be on one side and an empty middle seat will be on the other.

“The benefit is that you don’t have anyone sitting next to you, so you’re farther away from other people for a consistent period of time,” Dr. Albrecht said. “But you do have a variety of people in the aisle, so you’ll probably have briefer interactions with a lot of different people.”



Sahred From Source link Travel

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *