(KRON) — Southwest Airlines will no longer block middle seats on flights after the Thanksgiving holiday.
The airline cited studies showing the risk of coronavirus transmission on board airplanes in its explanation.
“A growing body of data and research supports that face masks and enhanced cleaning, coupled with HEPA filtration, are highly effective measures to protect against the transmission of COVID-19 in air travel,” the airline tweeted.
Flyers will still be able to remove face masks while eating and drinking, but Southwest says “customers should replace their face covering as soon as possible.”
United Airlines and the Department of Defense conducted an eight-day test for COVID-19 risk on planes using mannequins and found it to be low. Some mannequins wore masks and some did not, and tracer particles were released in two-second intervals to simulate breathing. It did not consider passengers moving about the cabin.
Some people were responding to the news, feeling unsafe.
One Twitter user said:
“I flew on Southwest last week. The man behind me had his mask below his nose throughout the flight. As the plane emptied more 10 others had their masks below their nose. The crew did not enforce proper use of mask and as long as snacks are served masks are off intermittently.”
Southwest responded by saying:
“We apologize if you witnessed inconsistencies w/ our mask policy during your trip, especially if more than one Passenger wasn’t appropriately wearing their face covering.”
The middle seats will be made available after November 30. Southwest also tweeted that a single passenger may not purchase two seats unless necessary for disability reasons.
The airline said they will continue to collaborate with Stanford Medicine regarding its safety policies during the coronavirus pandemic.
Anyone who already booked a seat before Oct. 23, 2020 for travel after the middle seat policy changes will be allowed to get a refund if canceled before midnight on Oct. 31.