Although some airlines are blocking off middle seats as a social distancing remedy during the coronavirus pandemic, Expedia Group’s Barry Diller labeled removing middle seats as part of a future aviation strategy as “absurd.”
Diller said perhaps planes will get cleaner but the idea that social distancing can be effective in airplanes, restaurants, theaters, and “in these kinds of arenas is a myth” during an interview Sunday with moderator Margaret Brennan on the CBS News show Face the Nation
“I don’t think any of that makes any sense,” Diller added.
Diller, Expedia Group’s longtime senior executive, called on politicians and health authorities to provide clear guidelines on whether masks are effective, for example, as a way to bring back the economy.
“Unfortunately, we have a witch doctor as president and he ain’t going to tell us,” Diller said.
President Trump was widely criticized this week for suggesting that doctors might be able to inject patients with disinfectants to treat coronavirus, and public officials were inundated with queries from the public about whether they might treat themselves by swallowing poisonous disinfectants.
Commenting on Expedia Group’s fundraising efforts during the crisis, Diller said the company secured nearly $4 billion in private market financing to get the company through the crisis in almost any scenario.
Diller’s Expedia Group has been busy trying to outlast the coronavirus pandemic. Expedia last week announced it is securing $3.2 billion in private equity financing from Apollo Global Management and Silver Lake Partners, appointed vice chairman Peter Kern as CEO, and indicated it would furlough some employees after laying off 12 percent of its staff earlier this year.
There will be many bankruptcies across the economy, Diller said. He noted that Expedia Group transitioned from $250 million in sales per day to nearly no revenue, although he said the company has the cash to make it through the pandemic.
He said there is “no chance” the U.S. economy will recover by the Summer but said hopefully around Labor Day in early September that could happen. He said the economic recovery is currently in the “teething” stage.
Diller called on the U.S. government to provide more financial relief.
“Hopefully the government will pick up the tab because this is an existential crisis,” Diller said.
FLYING AND SOCIAL DISTANCING: “The idea that you can take the middle seat out of an airplane and have any kind of ‘social distancing’ is absurd,”@ExpediaGroup's chair Barry Diller tells @margbrennan of travel in the era of #coronavirus pic.twitter.com/RoFT4DJy0L
— Face The Nation (@FaceTheNation) April 26, 2020