The dreaded middle seat.
Many air travellers would do all they could to avoid sitting in one.
As airlines plan for a post-lockdown world there’s deep confusion over whether it should even be allowed.
In Europe, carriers have resisted calls to leave middle seats empty.
In the U.S. it’s not mandatory to leave them empty, but some airlines do.
In Malaysia and Indonesia planes must fly half empty.
In short, there’s zero global agreement on what the rules should be.
Some countries apply their rules only to their carriers, while others apply them to foreign airlines too.
Without middle seats, airliners could only carry two-thirds of their capacity.
That’s not enough for most carriers to make a profit without raising prices - which might just cut demand.
With social distancing on planes all but impossible, some see different solutions.
The EU says passengers should wear masks, and minimise onboard movement.
Check-in and baggage drop-off are likely to be largely automated.
And on-board service is already changing.
Fly business class on carriers including Air Canada, Emirates and British Airways and the food will now be something pre-packaged.
Regulators and aircraft manufacturers like Boeing would like this jumble of rules to be standardised.
Right now though, avoiding a middle seat really depends on where you’re flying.