Delta Says They’ll Keep Blocking Middle Seats Through January 6, But It Isn’t True

Delta, JetBlue, Alaska and Southwest have all been limiting the number of seats they sell on each flight, so that sitting next to someone outside of your household isn’t necessary on board their planes.

United Airlines and American Airlines aren’t doing this, which means on comparable non-stop flights, or when you have to connect anyway, Delta, JetBlue, Alaska and Southwest all represent better value.

Currently Southwest and Alaska Airlines have committed to continue this practice through October 31. JetBlue has so far committed to do so through October 15.

Delta had previously said they’d keep doing it after September. And they’ve announced limits on the seats they’ll sell until January 6. However they’re playing games here, in fact they’re playing the game that American played before they stopped blocking seats altogether.

To avoid assigning any middle seats on a narrowbody aircraft with six seats across, that means blocking one-third of the seats in coach (67% load factor). Delta has been capping sales at 60% of the seats in coach. Starting October 1 they are going to be selling more seats, up to 75% of the seats in coach on each plane. That means filling each cabin 25% more than before.

On some flights middle seats will remain empty for solo travelers. Middle seats won’t be available to book for parties of 1 or 2 but since 2 people traveling together get a row to themselves it seems likely that the airline will run out of seats to assign on full flights and travelers will wind up in middles under this plan between October 1 and January 6.

Meanwhile starting October 1 Delta will no longer block seats in business class on widebody planes.

There’s some consumer benefit to what Delta is doing, and we don’t know yet whether Southwest and Alaska will continue their practice into November and December. (For October at least these two airlines will generally offer a better value than Delta.) However like so much of Delta there’s overclaiming, and an asterisk to their PR.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Gary is writing another garbage article with a sensational title just to get clicks in this blog.

    Simple math: blocking all middle seats in coach equates to blocking two-sixths of available seats, which is actually one-third (33%) and not two-thirds (66%).

    And then this article has to analysis or a So What element.

  2. 2/6 = 67% ?

    It still barely works out, since they are blocking 1/3 seats, they should only have 67% available, and they’re booking up to 75%. Perhaps they have some metrics on parties of 3 that says they’ll be OK to fill 1/4 of the middle seats with travel buddies filling up the whole row…

  3. Here’s the problem. Delta could keep its current policy and charge a premium if it provided service. But it isnt. No coffee, no Coke, nothing. Just flew a 7:45 am $1500 first-class ticket. I received a snack box full of junk snacks and a choice of beer or wine. Delta isn’t even upgrading, despite what it claims. Planes going out empty with rows of empty first-class and dozens on upgrade list.

  4. They should, they transfer everyone through one giant ATL airport, the risk of going through that airport alone should scare anyone.

  5. @FNT Delta Diamond; From Delta’s press release of 08/20/2020 it says

    “Limit the First Class cabin to half capacity to further ensure more space between customers.” “On regional jets in 1×2 configurations, First Class cabin will be capped at 67%”

    So based on that, I would expect to see plan go out with several empty FC seats.

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