American Airlines will book full planes, scrapping social distancing

American Airlines Group Inc. plans to sell flights to capacity starting July 1, abandoning caps on passenger loads that were designed to promote social distancing amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Customers still will be notified when they’re booked on crowded flights and can move their reservations at no cost, the airline said in a statement Friday. Starting Tuesday, American also will ask customers to certify that they have been free of COVID-19 symptoms for the previous 14 days.

American is ditching its restrictions on filling aircraft cabins just as the pandemic worsens in parts of the U.S. that had largely been spared earlier this year. Those areas include states where the carrier has major operations, such as Texas, Arizona and North Carolina. In April, the airline began holding open half of middle seats in economy class when possible.

“That was before we had extensive cleaning initiatives, face mask requirements and an extension of waivers for customers,” said Ross Feinstein, a spokesman for the Fort Worth, Texas-based airline. “That’s the reasoning we ultimately feel it’s safe and prudent to lift these restrictions as of July 1.”

Health experts have told The Times that the risk of infection goes up as more passengers are crammed into a plane.

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