SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — With all the reports of dramatic declines in air travelers, Dr. Ethan Weiss, a UC-San Francisco cardiologist, returning from an assignment at a New York City hospital to help battle that city’s COVID-19 outbreak was shocked to see the crowded conditions on his flight back to San Francisco.
Weiss was flying back to San Francisco out of Newark on Saturday. He was a member of the UCSF medical team that volunteered to fly to New York in April to give some relief to the doctors and nurses being overwhelmed by coronavirus patients. With much fanfare, United Airlines flew the team round-trip for free.
But Weiss began tweeting about the flight soon after boarding. He had thought it was standard airline policy during the COVID-19 outbreak to keep all middle seats empty to allow for social distancing.
“I guess @united is relaxing their social distancing policy these days?,” he tweeted along with a phot. “Every seat full on this 737.”
“This is the last time I’ll be flying again for a very long time,” he continued.
As his flight approached San Francisco, Weiss posted a checklist of what he thought the airline could have done better.
“We are about to land & I just wanted to say a few things. 1) people on this plane are scared/ shocked. 2) I have no idea why most of them are traveling. 3)I am with a group of 25 nurses and doctors who have been working in NYC hospitals for the past 2-4 weeks. We are coming home. 4) United flew us here for free. They got a lot of great PR for taking great care of us on the way out including from me. Even from me. 5) they could have avoided this by just communicating better. They literally just sent an email 10 days ago telling all of us the middle seats would be empty.
Maya Kotas, who was another member of the UCSF team and worked in a busy ICU, posted a similar photo.
Trauma surgeon Rebecca Plevin was also on the flight.
— Rebecca Plevin (@rplevin) May 9, 2020
Weiss’ posts drew a large response of others who have had similar experiences during the COVID-19 outbreak.
“Replying to @ethanjweiss I recently flew home from a COVID assignment in NYC on @AmericanAir and they didn’t give a crap about social distancing. I was sat right next to someone and when I asked if I could move, they said “well this flight’s pretty full so no,” posted sassyclassysmartassy.
Another traveler on Saturday posted a photo of his overcrowded American Airlines flight.