australian aviation logo

Qantas and Virgin block middle seats to aid social distancing

written by Adam Thorn | April 20, 2020

Virgin and Qantas have now stopped passengers sitting next to each other in order to improve social distancing onboard.

The move comes after Qantas faced criticism when a tweet showed a packed flight from north Queensland to Brisbane on 13 April.

In the US, Delta, Alaska and Spirit airlines have also effectively blocked the middle seat.


Virgin’s new seating arrangements, announced on Friday, will be applied automatically through the airline’s reservation system, which can cap flights and block seats between groups.

It will be complemented by a new simplified onboard menu designed to reduce contact between passengers and airline crew. Water and a snack will be served to guests, regardless of cabin class.

Passengers will, however, no longer be able to purchase food onboard.

Virgin Australia general manager Paul Woosnam said, “While the risk of contracting coronavirus on an aircraft is deemed low we have put in place social distancing measures on our flights for the health and safety of our passengers and crew who are always our number one priority.

“We hope this new policy, along with the flexible booking options we are already giving travellers, instils confidence in people who are required to travel for essential reasons.”

Meanwhile, Qantas followed Virgin’s announcement on Monday morning by confirming it would follow suit, but argued that, previously, social distancing was almost happening by default due to the low numbers of guests on each flight.

Earlier this month, Qantas released a statement to the media titled “Facts on coronavirus and crew”, in which the airline argued, “There’s been no confirmed cases of transmission of the coronavirus to employees or customers on board our aircraft, or any aircraft globally”.

The statement was controversial because the Australian government signalled a large proportion of coronavirus cases originated from overseas, most of which would have arrived in the country via flying.

On 23 March, Prime Minister Scott Morrison effectively banned anyone from leaving the country, except for a few specific exemptions, to stop the spread of the pandemic.

You need to be a member to post comments. Become a member today!

Comments (3)

  • Footy


    It would be interesting to know exactly what Essential jobs all these people have… instead of whinging, why not just stay at home… apart from hospital workers etc, there should be no need for people to to be travelling… it has been a month, if you are on your way home, you should have already been there. And if you are some sort of environmental activist… how about virtual meetings… love the fact that greenies whinge about power stations but still find it essential to FLY overseas and act all precious because apparently it is ok to pay more for a ticket to “offset” their environmental impact… how about NOT HAVING the impact in the first place.

  • Irvine William


    If I sleep with my wife every night why can’t I sit next to her in a plane

  • Ben


    Woo hoo – just like European business class in every seat, every plane, every flight 🙂

    What a pity I don’t have any essential travel coming up.

    (I do of course realise the seriousness and health reasons of why this is being done – I’m more about having a bit of a dig at so-called European ‘business’ class).

    @Footy – I agree with you 100%. There cannot surely be that many people ‘needing’ to travel. People should just stay home except for work. I appreciate it is difficult – but we all should be doing it. The extent of the sheer stupidity of some people never ceases to amaze me. It might look a bit like a Nanny State, but in this case people need protection from themselves, as well as others.

Comments are closed.

You don't have credit card details available. You will be redirected to update payment method page. Click OK to continue.