Southwest CEO Gary Kelly has a message for weary travelers: it’s safe to fly.
He was a guest on Face The Nation yesterday on CBS and the very first question asked by host Margaret Brennan was whether it is safe to fly:
“It is. You know, we’re- we’re- we’re doing everything possible to encourage people to come back and fly. We’re cleaning airplanes. We’re requiring masks of our employees and our customers. We’re using very deep cleanings every night. We’re using electrostatic misters, which will kill the virus on surfaces for up to 30 days. We’re exercising social distancing. And onboard the aircraft, we won’t be booking airplanes full so that people can spread out. So absolutely, we’re doing everything we can to make it as safe as humanly possible.”
Brennan, knowingly or not, next pinpointed exactly on the farce of so-called “social distancing” on airplanes. She asked how open seats matter when the distance between an aisle and window seat is still far below the recommended six feet, people walk past each other to use the lavatory, and minimum distances are virtually impossible during boarding and deplaning.
Kelly responded by deflecting absolute risk and focusing on relative risk:
“I don’t think the risk on- on an airplane is any greater risk than anywhere else, and in fact, you just look at the layered approach that we use. It’s- it’s as safe as an environment as you’re going to find. We’re using hospital quality disinfectants, HEPA air filters to make sure that the air is- is properly filtered and clean. We’re not going- going to remove middle seats or prohibit people from sitting in middle seats. But at the same time, we won’t book the airplanes full. So, you know, if you choose, all the middle seats can be open.”
It’s a reasonable answer. There is no absolute safety, but I’d feel a lot safer on an airplane than I do when I go to the grocery store.
You can watch the entire interview below:
The rest of the interview is also interesting. Kelly talks about job cuts which appear all but inevitable. But the discourse on safety stuck out to me. Indeed, the world may be a dangerous place, but even in the era of COVID-19 an airplane is probably one of the safer communal spaces right now.