Delta, Southwest, JetBlue and Alaska have all limited capacity on their flights so that passengers can have an empty middle seat next to them. American and United have been willing to fill their planes to full capacity.
Whether or not an empty middle seat is an important protection during Covid, when comparing similar itineraries at similar prices airlines like Delta and Southwest have been offering clearly better value to passengers than American and United. The number one thing that gives you a better flight experience is extra space. Your food tastes better, flight crews seem nicer, and the trip seems less stressful overall.
What I’ve stressed from the beginning of the pandemic, and long before, is that you can generally buy yourself an extra seat on U.S. airlines. With airfares low, this can be a great deal. While the procedures are different at each airline you canofteneven do it even when booking basic economy (which can even get you two seats without paying for seat assignments). I first wrote about this over two years ago, but it takes on even greater significance now.
Several airlines will now sell blocked middle seats and even entire empty rows to customers during the booking process. No U.S. airline does this, which seems strange to me: it’s an opportunity to earn more revenue from the customers they already have today.
However they’ll sell you the seat. And American Airlines will now even let you use electronic trip credits to pay for it. They should really publicize this feature more!
This is brand new, it’s live, and based on internal documentation here’s how the process works:
You shouldn’t need to worry about the particulars. An agent who is unfamiliar with the process can look it up. It’s useful, though, to know that this is possible – and something to consider doing on your next trip.