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Merkley blasts American Airlines for packing the middle seats on their flight

The senator says he will introduce a bill to ban the sale of car seats

WASHINGTON (CNN) – Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., Said he will introduce a bill to ban the sale of car seats during this coronavirus pandemic, a day after he criticized American Airlines for selling mid-air seats on a flight he had boarded, called it “incredibly responsible” and warned that it was contributing to the disease.

Merkley tweeted a photo showing his full flight on Thursday. Most of the passengers in the picture were blurred, but it is clear that some were wearing masks and many of them were in the middle seat.

“@AmericanAir: how many Americans are going to die bc you fill middle chairs, w / your customers shoulder to shoulder, hour after hour. This is incredibly responsible,”

; he tweeted. “People eat and drink on airplanes and have to take off masks to do so. No way you are not facilitating the spread of COVID infections.”

On Friday, he followed up: “Many people responded to my tweet yesterday about the irresponsible sale of airplane seats and said, ‘Wouldn’t it be nice if someone in the Senate did something about it?’ They are right. “

“I will introduce a bill to ban the sale of car seats through this pandemic. And I will work with colleagues to include it in a package of airline liability reforms they are creating,” he tweeted.

American Airlines said in a statement Friday, “We are second to none in our commitment to the safety and well-being of our customers and team members. We have several layers of on-site protection for those flying with us, including required face coatings, improved cleaning procedures and a checklist for symptoms of COVID-19 before flights – and we provide additional flexibility for customers to change their travel plans as well. “

It added, “We know our customers put their trust in us to make every aspect of their journey safe, and we are committed to doing just that.”

The American did not respond directly to Merkley’s initial tweet, but it replied to a Twitter user who retweeted it, saying, “The very reason I didn’t flee my family from Texas to Maine. @AmericanAir. This is shameful. I” I never moved with you for several years. I will never come again. “

“We have implemented many layers of protection including improved cleaning and require face coatings,” the airline responded, linking to a press release detailing its “clean commitment.”

Delta Air Lines, Jet Blue and Southwest Airlines, meanwhile, said they would continue to limit seating to allow for some social distance.

United Airlines said on Wednesday that it does not believe that simply leaving empty seats will protect passengers from coronavirus.

“When it comes to blocking middle seats, it’s a public relations strategy, it’s not a security strategy,” Josh Earnest, the airline’s top spokesman, told reporters.

But Dr. Robert Redfield, head of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said this week that “it was a big disappointment with American Airlines” when the carrier announced it would stop restricting seat sales.

Redfield at a Covid-19-related Senate Committee hearing on Tuesday, said Redfield’s safety on aircraft and mass transportation is a “critical area.”

“I can tell you that when they announced that the other day, it was obviously a big disappointment with American Airlines,” Redfield said. “I can say that this is under critical scrutiny right now by us at CDC. We do not think this is the right message.”

The CDC has stated that “although illness can occur as a direct result of air travel, it is unusual.” Most viruses do not spread easily on airplanes, the agency said, because of how the air circulates and filters. Modern commercial jets recycle 10-50% of the air in the cabin, mixed with the outdoor air.

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