EDITORIAL – Airlines return to cattle-pen bookings as pandemic rages

(Image: WestJet TV commercial)

An editorial by Mel Rothenburger.

THERE’S A BRILLIANT pre-pandemic WestJet TV commercial that involves cattle trying to get on their flight to the lyrics of the rock song “How does it feel, to treat me like you do?” The message is “We treat people like people.”

WestJet, and Air Canada, would do well to remember that as they forge ahead with their determination to pack as many people into their airplanes as possible during this pandemic.

Both airlines have returned to selling middle seats, thereby boosting revenues but eliminating even token distancing between passengers. U.S. carriers are doing the same thing.

If you’ve ever flown Economy — and who hasn’t — you’ll know what sardines feel like. Or, cattle being herded into a pen.

Airlines are notorious for making comfort a low priority unless you can afford a fancy-schmancy Business or First Class seat. Back in Economy, people are wedged elbow to elbow with no chance of avoiding contact with whoever’s next to us.

This isn’t anything like getting too close to one another in a lineup for a few minutes, taking the bus downtown or even attending an outdoor event. It’s being crammed into a space cheek by jowl for several hours.

The airlines offer assurances that their state-of-the-art air filtration systems are the answer along with Transport Canada mandated mask wearing, temperature scanning and so on.

An official WestJet statement assures passengers that “safety is above all, always.” A nice sentiment but not very reassuring.

Certainly, airlines are feeling the squeeze, but it’s hard to wrap one’s head around what the airlines are doing juxtaposed against the relentless messaging from health officials about physical distancing. Health officials, by the way, who now seem strangely reluctant to criticize the airlines.

Either the federal government needs to step in and insist middle seats remain vacant, or travelers need to take matters into their own hands and simply refuse middle seat bookings.

I’m Mel Rothenburger, the Armchair Mayor.

Mel Rothenburger is a former mayor of Kamloops and a retired newspaper editor. He is a regular contributor to CFJC Today, publishes the opinion website, and is a director on the Thompson-Nicola Regional District board. He can be reached at

About Mel Rothenburger (8481 Articles) is a forum about Kamloops and the world. It has more than one million views. Mel Rothenburger is the former Editor of The Daily News in Kamloops, B.C. (retiring in 2012), and past mayor of Kamloops (1999-2005). At he is the publisher, editor, news editor, city editor, reporter, webmaster, and just about anything else you can think of. He is grateful for the contributions of several local columnists. This blog doesn't require a subscription but gratefully accepts donations to help defray costs.

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