Chrissy Teigen, supermodel, celebrity, author, and wife of John Legend tweeted at American Airlines yesterday but it was all wrong.
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In a post Matthew wrote yesterday, supermodel, author, celebrity, and wife of John Legend tweeted the following throwing shade at American Airlines:
Not to be dramatic but American Airlines only cares about money and doesn’t care if you get sick and die. https://t.co/6q8ZfZiduB
— chrissy teigen (@chrissyteigen) July 3, 2020
It is, in essence, a retweet with her own added sass to that of the junior Senator from Oregon. His comment suggests that American Airlines is killing people by not keeping the middle seat open on flights. Matthew’s post held back in some places where I will not. He’s much more diplomatic than I am, if you don’t believe me, just read the comments on this site on Sundays.
There’s so much to explore so let’s dive in.
American Airlines is a Business
The basis of Teigen’s tweet is preposterous. American Airlines is a business, it’s literally only around to make money. That’s the whole purpose of a company. It doesn’t matter if the company’s slogan is “Getting people there and making a difference” or any other esoteric approach – if they do not make money, they do not exist.
Further, American Airlines directly employed more than 133,000 people (pre-COVID numbers, I have no idea how many are employed today) but that number does not include the tens of thousands of contract workers like gate agents. There are further untold numbers that are indirectly employed by American Airlines through catering companies, cutlery providers, fuel businesses, napkin manufacturers, and more.
If American Airlines cannot stay solvent, all of those jobs go away. All of those lives are in tumult too. They must make money to stay in business, but what good is it being in business if all of your customers are dead, right?
It Wouldn’t Matter Anyway
Let’s just pretend for a moment that American Airlines did not sell the middle seat, what difference would it make? Seat width on American’s domestic fleet is between 17-18″. The seat pitch is 30-34″, slightly more if you are in first class. But six feet of distance, the minimum the CDC currently recommends assuming all parties wearing masks, is 72″. That would be a 72″ radius and does not generally take into account recycled air. That means that on any plane, only the window seats could be sold and only every third row.
Is 18″ of distance better than nothing? Yes, but barely. Matthew has promised a scientific post about this topic and while we all wait with bated breath, I fear it will only confirm that any of those distances are really a fallacy anyway.
Why? Consider how a person gets into their seat. Do they touch a common armrest when they sit down or get up? Are they using the same overhead bin? It’s kind of like a restaurant I visit in Pittsburgh. They go through the meticulous trouble of requiring masks, putting up plastic dividers, bringing food out to the car, and placing it in the back seat for guests, but still come to the driverside window with the same recycled pen to autograph the credit card slip. You might as well have done nothing at all.
Empty middle seats are advertising and nothing more for carriers that were struggling to fill up planes anyway. Instead of security theater, it’s health-safety theater, but theater all the same.
What Teigen’s tweet and that of Senator Merkley also fails to address is any level of personal responsibility. We know that more and more Americans are flying every single day right now. United is ready to add another 25,000 monthly flights.
Is it the airline’s responsibility to provide an adequate wellness environment? Some could make a parallel to restaurants that must adhere to public food safety rules and that would be fair. However, would this tweet not change to “Look at American Airlines gouging customers” as prices jump to the equivalent of one seat per three rows. That’s a 900% cost increase for passengers who would have to bear the burden in order to comply with CDC guidelines. And those increases wouldn’t come out of greed, they would come from math. Airlines aren’t getting rich, they are trying to stop the bleeding and still failing.
Many of those passengers didn’t need to fly. They chose to. The height of the coronavirus prior to the latest resurgence proved that Americans can do without getting on a plane. Yet they are returning. Is this not at their own risk? Why is the carrier responsible for their choices? If one chooses to go inside a grocery store instead of taking a delivery or curbside pickup, do they not bear responsibility for the situation they put themselves in due to their own choices? Is it the groceier’s fault if they get sick inside the store even though they require masks?
If you want an open middle seat, buy it – all the carriers will be happy to sell one to you. If you don’t feel comfortable enough to fly, don’t.
Businesses have one purpose, to make money. No matter how many other jingoistic mission statements they come up with, if they do not make money they have failed their purpose. Chrissy Teigen has several companies – she should know this. Further, if they had kept the middle seat open it would provide next to no additional safety. The truth is, everybody loves an empty middle seat but it’s not shameful for American to not ensure it (by the way, United recently recanted this offering as well.) If you don’t feel safe to fly but fly anyway, you’ve taken the burden of your health not a third-party who facilitates your wishes.
What do you think? Do airlines have a duty to provide an empty middle seat? Do passengers bear any responsibility?