American Airlines plans to begin selling every seat on its aircraft, something it has not done since the pandemic struck this spring – leading to the prospect of more full flights.
The move comes ahead of the July 4 travel weekend. An American spokesperson said the holiday could be its busiest period since March.
Air travel overall is down about 80% from where it stood last year, according to Transportation Security Administration data. But it is steadily increasing: The 623,000 people it screened yesterday were 23% of the 2.7 million the agency saw a year before, and the agency’s busiest day since air travel cratered in mid-April.
Airlines for America — which represents major US air carriers, including American — told CNN this week that the average flight is about half full at 54.7%. But the group declined to say how many flights are full.
American has been limiting capacity on its flights since April.
“As more people continue to travel, customers may notice that flights are booked to capacity starting July 1,” the company said in a statement on Friday. “American will continue to notify customers and allow them to move to more open flights when available, all without incurring any cost.”
The airline said it will begin notifying all customers that their flights may be full and will continue to waive change fees through September 30.
What other airlines are doing: United said it has been notifying customers whose flights may be more than 70% full, but an American spokesperson said putting a specific number to their notifications is not practical because flights could fill up after the notification window has passed.
Delta and Southwest have said they are capping capacity in an attempt to keep middle seats open and promote social distancing.