Federation of American Scientists calls on United and American to reverse their decision to fully book planes

Washington, DC, June 30, 2020

Mr. Doug Parker
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer
American Airlines

Mr. Scott Kirby
Chief Executive Officer
United Airlines

Dear Mr. Parker and Mr. Kirby,

As representative of an organization dedicated to a safe and more secure world, I write to express my strong concerns about your recent decisions to return to booking your airlines’ flights to capacity.

COVID-19 spreads easily and is deadly — as of Tuesday afternoon on June 30th, there have been over 2.6 million confirmed infections and, tragically, more than 126,000 deaths in the US alone. The coronavirus — SARS-CoV-2 — is primarily spread “through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks,” and some of those droplets are aerosolized, remaining airborne for tens of minutes. Moreover, COVID-19 can be transmitted efficiently “by people who are not showing symptoms.” These factors make it all the more critical to follow public health guidance.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that people put at least six feet of distance between themselves and those outside of their households, in addition to taking other preventative measures such as covering the mouth and nose with a cloth face cover when around others. Even air travel at 50 percent capacity, or flights with middle seats left open, while not allowing six feet of distance between people, would be better than nothing.

In light of all this, your decisions to book flights to capacity place your crew and your passengers in excessive danger. That’s why it is also drawing criticism from government experts. The country’s top two federal public health officials — Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and Dr. Robert Redfield, CDC director — described your actions as problematic and deeply disappointing at today’s Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee hearing.

For all of these reasons, I urge you to immediately reverse your decision and to protect your passengers and crew from COVID-19 to the extent possible.

Ali Nouri, PhD

President, Federation of American Scientists