JetBlue extends coronavirus middle-seat ban as rivals book full flights

United Airlines and American Airlines have returned to full flights

JetBlue is not quite ready to allow customers back into middle seats.

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The airline announced Monday that it’s extending a ban on center seats until at least Sept. 8, as the coronavirus outbreak spikes in new hotspots throughout the country. However, families and parties of three or more can still request to sit in a row together.

TickerSecurityLastChangeChange %
JBLUJETBLUE AIRWAYS10.43+0.32+3.12%
UALUNITED AIRLINES HLDG.32.61+0.74+2.31%
AALAMERICAN AIRLINES GROUP INC.11.62+0.55+4.92%

A spokesperson for the company did not immediately respond to a request for comment from FOX Business, but the move builds on previously announced “Safety from the Ground Up” initiative to mitigate the potential spread of the virus, including robust cleaning and social distancing.

“The uncertainty of the industry’s recovery and the changing landscape around us means we have to be ready for anything,” the company said in memo early this month.

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While JetBlue opts to extend its middle-seat ban, two big competitors, United Airlines and American Airlines have returned to booking full flights, despite outcry from Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. and other health officials.

And industry experts have warned that keeping middle seats unoccupied to facilitate social distancing on planes may come at a price for passengers.

For instance, average airfares around the world would need to jump anywhere between 43 percent to 54 percent, depending on the region, this year in order for airlines to break even compared to 2019, according to the International Air Transport Association.

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An MIT report recently published said the chances of contracting COVID-19 while flying in a middle seat is relatively assuming all passengers are wearing masks, which JetBlue also requires, but researchers did indicated that leaving that seat open could still cut down the risk.

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While shares of JetBlue saw a slight increase of 12 percent over the last three months, they’ve fallen more than 45 percent on the year. Shares were down 4 percent Monday afternoon.