Going Southwest

Going Southwest

Today Southwest Airlines cited an airline industry study to justify unblocking all its middle seats. That leaves only Delta Airlines that still blocks middle seat sales.

The study was published early this month and went unnoticed, because it’s not even a study. It’s commentary on internal airline studies falsely substantiated by a scientific study that disavows providing “any evidence of safety” regarding air travel.

The fact that normally good media organizations like the major networks reflexively echoed Southwest’s press release this morning is an example of how far this society has gone in lapping up garbage.

You believe what you want to believe from whom you believe and apparently you just don’t have the time anymore to check it out.

Here are the facts:

About a month ago a decent scientific organization that focuses on travel, the Journal of Travel Medicine from Oxford Academic, published a peer-review study that was a compendium of a number of individual studies that traced airline passengers who contracted Covid-19 back to their flight circumstances.

These studies attempted to determine if the sick person got sick on the airplane, and/or if the sick person infected others.

The “Highlight” of the study, a lay-friendly “abstract” which tops the report when you bring it up online, was changed when it became apparent this scientific study would be misused. The “Highlight” now begins : “The absence of large numbers of published in-flight transmissions of SARS-CoV-2 is not definitive evidence of safety.”

IATA is the industry association of airlines. Two weeks ago it was clear there would not be another stimulus package in time for airlines to abort their massive layoffs. Third quarter earnings’ reports were coming out, skewed upwards in part by the successful first stimulus package, and for the first time since the pandemic outbreak, airline passenger traffic had returned to about 50%.

The stage was set for a catastrophic collapse of at least parts of the industry if a second stimulus didn’t occur.

IATA issued a press release on October 8 titled, “Research Points to Low Risk for COVID-19 Transmission Inflight” in which it unprofessionally combined the Oxford Academic study with individual internal airline studies regarding how good their cabin airflow was.

IATA unconscionably concluded, “The risk of a passenger contracting COVID-19 while onboard appears very low. With only 44 identified potential cases of flight-related transmission among 1.2 billion travelers, that’s one case for every 27 million travelers.”

This is criminal.

There are no studies of how likely it is that you’ll contract Covid-19 on an airplane. Just as there have never been any scientific studies of the likelihood of getting a cold on an airplane.

Imagining such studies is daunting. Airline passengers move quickly through innumerable environments. The study would have to detail the passenger’s movements and all those environments or somehow develop an acceptable algorithm that simulated that.

Covid-19 is even more challenging because it’s transmissible by asymptomatic persons and a large percentage of the sick population is asymptomatic.

Yesterday Southwest Airlines reported its biggest loss ever.

4. Listen to Anthony Fauci.