Empty Middle Seats Fly Off Into the Sunset as Delta to Sell Entire Row

American, United, JetBlue Had Retired Empty-Seat Policy Months Ago

By Paul Riegler on 31 March 2021
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Coach cabin of a Delta Boeing 767-300ER

Delta Air Lines, the last U.S. airline to block most middle seats during the pandemic, said it would end that policy on May 1.

“As vaccinations become more widespread, consumer demand and behaviors show us that confidence in travel is on the rise and customers are ready to reclaim their lives,” said Delta’s statement Wednesday.

The policy arose last April amidst the coronavirus pandemic-induced decline in flying crippled the travel industry.

JetBlue Airways began to fill every seat on its planes in January, while Southwest Airlines ended caps on capacity at the end of last year. Both American and United airlines ended middle seat blocks last summer.

Expanded availability of coronavirus vaccines factored into Delta’s decision, the airline’s CEO, Ed Bastian, said, adding that the company’s research shows that 64% of its pre-pandemic passenger base anticipate having at least dose of the vaccine by May 1.

“Don’t confuse these actions with a return to ‘normal,’” Bastian cautioned employees in a memo viewed by Frequent Business Traveler on Wednesday. “We’re still operating in a pandemic, and many of the changes we’ve made over the past year, such as strengthening our cleanliness protocols and eliminating change fees, will be permanent. Importantly, masks remain critical to our ability to safely welcome more people onboard our planes, and we remain committed to enforcing these requirements.”

(Photo: Accura Media Group)

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