United Airlines is bucking the trend of blocking out middle seats as the world deals with COVID-19. That means that you're free to book a middle seat if you'll be flying with the airline this summer. In fact, United's chief communications officer has called the practice of keeping middle seats open a form of 'theater' for airlines. United's Josh Earnest feels that airlines that follow the practice are engaged in what essentially amounts to a PR stunt. What should airline customers make of all this?

United Airlines has decided to fill middle seats on its flights because airline executives don't believe that the practice of keeping them empty is actually effective for reducing the spread of COVID-19. United's Josh Earnest is quick to point out that it's nearly impossible to effectively practice social distancing while inside an aircraft. The methods that United believes will help to reduce the spread of COVID-19 during flights include wearing masks, using a high-quality air filter and cleaning planes thoroughly between flights.

United isn't the only airline that seems to be comfortable with booking middle seats as passengers return to the air following months of empty planes. American Airlines faced criticism last week when Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon posted a photo of himself on what appeared to be a very packed flight. Many middle seats on the plane in the photo were notably filled. However, the photo did show that most passengers on the flight appeared to be wearing masks. American had been blocking middle seats up until July 1.

A number of airlines are still blocking middle seats. Delta and Southwest are two airlines that have vowed to continue blocking middle seats on flights for the foreseeable future.

Scott Dylan is a contributing writer at GET.com and has been to (almost) every country in North, Central and South America with nothing more than a backpack, a laptop and the desire to explore. He speaks Spanish fluently and has logged enough time in planes, trains, rideshares, buses, taxis and rickshaws to know how to rack up rewards and points to get anywhere his heart desires for pennies on the dollar. Email: scott.dylan@get.com.