Airplanes Are Packed, So Why Aren’t Restaurants?

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Restaurants across the country are struggling because of the pandemic, but the amount of struggle depends on the city or state that the restaurant is in. New York City doesn’t have indoor dining as an option at all, so restaurants there are totally empty depending completely on takeout and those few brave souls who are willing to eat outside in frigid temperatures. Meanwhile, restaurants in the City of Miami are allowed to operate at 100% capacity as long as social distancing requirements and a curfew is met. Las Vegas is at 25% while the state of Arkansas is at 50%. It’s a mish-mosh of rules making it confusing for everyone from restaurant workers to customers. This is not unlike the airline industry where each airline is deciding on their own how they want to handle the idea of social distancing. United Airlines has continuously sold all available seats while Delta Airlines has blocked the sale of the middle or adjacent seat through Sept. 30.

So, how is it okay for an airline to pack in customers with little or no social distancing while some restaurants aren’t even allowed to have two customers inside it? Online photos show images of passengers sitting next to each other, elbow to elbow, breathing in the same recirculated air that everyone else is breathing.

Sure, they’re wearing masks, but anyone who has ever been on an airplane knows how close you are to total strangers. No one would ever sit that close to a stranger in a restaurant, but for some reason, it’s allowed on an airplane. It makes no sense and it’s very frustrating for restaurant workers. Heather, a bartender in New Jersey says, “we have 25% capacity and indoor dining ends at 10PM. Ten months of barely scraping by. I’m so over it.” She’s not alone with her feelings and even though the majority of restaurant employees are eager to go back to work, that doesn’t mean there aren’t risks. The University of California San Francisco just released a study that said restaurant work is one of the deadliest jobs in California during the pandemic. People in the industry have seen their chances of death increasing to 40%.

Every restaurant owner that is operating at limited capacity could do a way better job of enforcing social distancing than what is happening on many airplanes. Even though President Biden recently signed an executive order requiring masks to be worn on all planes, there will always be some “mask-hole” who will only wear it until takeoff and then remove it knowing that little will be done about it other than a flight attendant politely requesting that they put it back on. At least in a restaurant, the police can be called on someone who isn’t following the rules and that person can be escorted out. That won’t happen on an airplane. Fellow passengers will be stuck sitting next to this person for the next several hours unless they can parachute themselves out of the situation.

If the government is going to allow some airlines passengers to be crammed into a sealed cylindrical tube like sardines in a can, they should also allow restaurant customers the same option. But in a restaurant, it WON’T be the same as it is in an airplane because restaurants can do what airplanes cannot do: they can spread their customers apart. They can install plexiglass dividers between people. They can open up the windows and turn on ceiling fans to ensure circulated air. And most importantly, restaurants can immediately deal with offenders without having to depend on a sky marshal.

One state allowing 100% capacity in a restaurant while another is at 0% is really no different than United Airlines squeezing customers into a plane while Delta Airlines doesn’t. Different companies make different rules just likes states do. However, with restaurants gasping for their last breath, it would be nice if we could just pretend that some of these restaurants with 0% capacity were a little bit like an airplanes and that customers could still go to them, albeit as safely as possible. Ages ago, a flight attendant was known as a “waitress of the sky.” Too bad that so many actual waitresses aren’t able to do their job.

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Bitchy Waiter

Bitchy Waiter

Darron Cardosa is a writer, actor, singer, and waiter. He lives and and works in New York City and enjoys "The Brady Bunch," "The Facts of Life" and cocktails almost as much as he hates your baby.