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CNN: IATA backs face masks but not middle seat closures for post-coronavirus air travel

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The International Air Transport Association (IATA), a trade group representing airlines around the world, has come out against blocking off middle seats on planes, while recommending both passengers and crew members wear face masks on board instead.

The group released an official statement on the state of post-Covid 19 air travel on May 5.

Why is one of these social distancing measures better than another? It's about the airlines' ability to make money.
"Evidence suggests that the risk of transmission on board aircraft is low," reads the statement. "Mask-wearing by passengers and crew will reduce the already low risk, while avoiding the dramatic cost increases to air travel that onboard social distancing measures would bring."

Blocking off specific seats will limit the number of tickets an airline can sell, cutting their already slim profit margins. Meanwhile, widespread mask wearing means every seat can be filled.
"In these conditions, there is no airline which is able to fly and make money on these flights," IATA's Director General, Alexandre de Juniac, told CNN's Richard Quest on a recent episode of "Quest Means Business."

And the most likely scenario would have those costs passed on to customers in the form of more expensive airline tickets.

"Compared to 2019, air fares would need to go up dramatically -- between 43% and 54% depending on the region -- just to break even," the release says.
 

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