• American Airlines began implementing a significant policy change on Wednesday — the resumption of selling full plane flights, irrespective of the growth in coronavirus cases around the US.
  • CDC director Robert Redfield expressed “substantial disappointment” with American Airlines for this.
  • This comes as coronavirus cases are demonstrating a worrisome rise around the US.

Even though we’re still several months into the coronavirus pandemic now, we’re starting to see a gradual increase in the number of people tiptoeing back into the world of travel — something that air carriers are trying to spur by touting all the dramatic changes they’re making to improve peoples’ safety.

People are making summer and even fall travel plans now, and especially if you’re flying there are even more choices than ever to consider. Route availability varies greatly now from one carrier to the next, for example, as they’ve all adjusted in response to the coronavirus-related tightening of demand. And some, arguably, are making horrible decisions as they go about making those adjustments. We’re referring, specifically, to American Airlines.

Most major airlines are currently operating flights at a capped maximum of passengers, to help ensure that passengers aren’t crowded inside like sardines at a time when we’re all supposed to be doing our best to socially distance from each other. Delta, for example, is operating thus for the time being: By capping first-class cabins at 50% capacity and only selling a maximum of 60% of its main cabin seats.

Starting Wednesday, however, American Airlines is resuming the sale of the entirety of its planes’ seats, so that you could conceivably board a full flight soon if you choose to fly with the airline. No surprise, CDC director Robert Redfield expressed “substantial disappointment” with American Airlines for this change in policy. He made the comments during a Senate Health Committee hearing Tuesday, responding to a question from Sen. Bernie Sanders by lamenting: “I can tell you that when they announced that the other day, obviously there was substantial disappointment with American Airlines. A number of the airlines had decided to keep the middle seat (open).”

It should be noted that the carrier did say they will tell passengers ahead of time if their flight will be full, but that’s not necessarily the valuable trade-off the airline acts like it is. As noted earlier, the major carriers have dramatically tweaked their coverage maps in response to customer demand. So American Airlines giving you the opportunity to cancel and find another route to your destination belies the fact that … none might be available.

This change in American Airlines’ policy also comes at an inopportune time, shall we say. White House health advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci said today, for example, that while we’re seeing more than 40,000 cases a day around the country right now, that number could very well surpass 100,000 a day soon.

Andy is a reporter in Memphis who also contributes to outlets like Fast Company and The Guardian. When he’s not writing about technology, he can be found hunched protectively over his burgeoning collection of vinyl, as well as nursing his Whovianism and bingeing on a variety of TV shows you probably don’t like.