Delta Air Lines has announced that it will be extending the blocking of middle seats and limiting the number of customers per flight through “at least Jan. 6, 2021,” a policy it inaugurated early in the pandemic crisis and has already extended several times.
The carrier becomes the first US airline to commit to blocked middle seats through the usually busy holiday travel season.
“Medical experts, including our own partners at Emory Healthcare, agree – more distance on board makes a difference,” said Bill Lentsch, chief customer experience officer in an airline statement. “We believe that taking care of our customers and employees and restoring confidence in the safety of air travel is more important right now than filling up every seat on a plane. We’ll continue taking a thoughtful, layered approach ensuring customers know to expect the highest standard of care as they prepare for their holiday travels.”
The airline will also be extending their change fee waiver for new flights purchased through Sept. 30.
Parties of three or more traveling together will be able to book middle seats to sit together. The airline also said that “at least until Oct. 31,” the airline would limit the number of passengers on board, limit first class to half-capacity and continue to mandate masks with a policy that passengers who cannot wear them for medical reasons must secure an airline ‘clearance to fly’ prior to boarding.
In a concession to sales, Delta will be moving airline capacity limits from 60 percent to 70 percent as of Oct. 1, 2020.
Delta’s CEO Ed Bastian has been the most publicly vocal of US airline executives in speaking out about customer safety and the airline’s prioritization of customer experience, saying the airline may downsize itself to adjust to post-COVID-19 realities.
American Airlines and United Airlines are not blocking middle seats, but are allowing passengers to rebook in the event of full flights. Alaska, Jet Blue and Southwest are all currently continuing to block middle seats, at least until October.