This morning on CNBC CEO Ed Bastian said that “we will continue past September 30th” blocking middle seats.
- Coach won’t be sold to more than 60% of capacity, to allow middle seat blocking. People in the same household who wish to sit together may continue to do so of course – and this is a great opportunity for extra space, book an aisle and window and share the seat between you for free.
- Domestic first class won’t be sold to more than 50% of capacity. That way every first class seat has an empty first class seat beside it. Delta is actually giving customers a reason to buy up, since they aren’t giving up distancing by doing so.
- Automatic upgrades will start again June 10. They’d only be handling upgrades at the gate to ensure they didn’t go over the caps in first class. Now they’ve automated that, so they can process upgrades in advance.
JetBlue has committed to block middle seats through Labor Day. American and United aren’t capping seats at all, United’s Scott Kirby echoes Michael O’Leary of Ryanair when he says “airplanes don’t have social distancing.”
Delta also does more disinfecting of planes between every flight (and not just overnight). Delta’s middle seat blocking and cleaning differentiate it from the industry.
There’s very little incremental cost for planes or crew (through September 30) and fuel is inexpensive, it’s far better to add a flight than fill a flight right now. It’s interesting that Delta plans to continue this once government payroll subsidies expire.
While Delta is conservative bringing back capacity it’s also positioning itself to grow and capture market share. Delta seems more focused on long run offering value to passengers, making them feel comfortable returning to the air, and choosing Delta when they do.