New York —
A cardiologist on the front line of the battle against COVID-19 expressed his fear of getting on a plane in the pandemic. And those fears came true with a flight full of people
A photo of a plane full of passengers amid the pandemic sparked controversy.
. / Ethan Weiss
“I am more afraid to get on a plane than to enter a hospital.”
This was stated by American cardiologist Ethan Weiss to the ABC news network before a photo on his Twitter went viral.
Weiss, who lives in San Francisco but has been working in New York for the past few weeks, the epicenter of the US coronavirus pandemic, confirmed her worst fear when she finally boarded a United Airlines to go home on May 9th.
The doctor published a photograph on his Twitter account that shows that the flight was complete and that the preventive social distancing measures against COVID-19 were not being respected.
I guess @united is relaxing their social distancing policy these days? Every seat full on this 737 pic.twitter.com/rqWeoIUPqL
– Ethan Weiss (@ethanjweiss) May 9, 2020
“I suppose @united is relaxing its social distancing policy these days? Every seat is occupied in this 737 ”, he wrote next to the image.
Weiss was referring to a statement from the same airline in late April in which it informed its passengers that it would vacate the middle seats to provide sufficient space between travelers.
But the reality was different.
“People on this plane are scared / shocked (…) I am with a group of 25 nurses and doctors who have been working in New York hospitals for the past two to four weeks, ”he wrote.
“This is the last time I will fly in a long time,” he posted in another tweet.
.Protection and social distancing, especially at airports and flights, is key to preventing the spread of COVID-19, according to experts.
Weiss’ tweet chain went viral causing hundreds of messages of support and also of criticism.
Many of the users expressed concern that social distancing efforts on planes will come to naught as the United States reopens its economy and more people fly again.
Others, on the other hand, criticized the doctor for choosing to fly.
. The commercial sector is one of the most affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
After the cardiologist’s photo became popular, United Airlines issued a new statement this Monday in which it assures that “It will implement additional temporary changes to promote social distancing.”
“Starting next week and through June 30, we will allow customers on flights expected to be closer to full capacity to choose to rebook on a different flight or receive a travel credit,” specified the airline.
Starting next week, customers on flights that are expected to be closer to full capacity can rebook on a different flight or receive a travel credit. We’ll do our best to reach out about 24 hours before departure and we’ll also provide options at the gate. https://t.co/DHjUIByLmr
– United Airlines (@united) May 12, 2020
“We will do our best to contact them approximately 24 hours before their departure time so that they can decide whether to adjust their plans before arriving at the airport, and we will provide this option at the (boarding) gate if more than 70% of customers have signed up, ”added United on its website.
Cardiologist Weiss welcomed the airline’s decision.
“For me, this story has been about the correspondence of expectations with reality and this new policy addresses this problem head on. No one is going to make any activity 100% safe, but I applaud United for making the process more transparent and clear, ”he wrote in a tweet.
To me this story has been entirely about matching expectations with reality and this new policy addresses that issue head-on. Nobody is going to make any activity 100% safe, but I applaud United for making the process more transparent and clear
– Ethan Weiss (@ethanjweiss) May 12, 2020
However, the case of United Airlines is not isolated.
In the past few days, similar complaints have also surfaced about crowded passenger flights at other companies like American Airlines, Delta and Iberia.
On the latter, last Sunday passengers on a flight that made the route Madrid-Gran Canaria, in Spain, documented the lack of social distance between the seats of the plane following the large number of people on board.