We just wrote about the reappearance of the A380 on Etihad’s AUH to SYD route starting on July 24th. One question that comes with flying such a large aircraft – Etihad’s A380 has 415 economy seats – is how will the airline maintain social distancing? A look at Etihad’s seat map shows their approach – they’re blocking every other seat.
The image above is from Etihad’s seat selection screen on EY 454 from AUH to SYD on the A380. You can see that every other seat is blocked. This is interesting on the A380, since there are four seats in the middle aisle. What you end up with is passengers on the right aisle separated by only the aisle itself – not an empty seat. There is no option to book a “middle seat” – even if you’re traveling with a family.
Etihad is taking a somewhat similar approach on its 777-300ER. However you can see that on this aircraft, Etihad does have a selection of three seats and two seats next to each other.
It’s not clear why Etihad is taking different social distancing approaches on the two aircraft. The 777 layout provides more flexibility for groups of different sizes, although there are so many empty seats on EY’s A380 that couples and families could reseat themselves. My guess is that Etihad is adjusting for different densities on the two aircraft – the 777 has just 282 economy seats compared to 415 on the A380.