Delta Will Keep Blocking Middle Seats Past September 30th

Six weeks ago Delta pledged to continue to block middle seats through September 30.

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.

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, 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. And the winner of the Tony in the category for hygiene-theater goes to…Delta!

    Either stay at home or not…I don’t feel safe when traveling for business period. I don’t need to be coddled by a company trying to make me “feel safe”

  2. At least on the routes in which I’ve been flying recently, flying Delta is more expensive and sometimes markedly so. So, these measures appear to come at a cost and the flying public gets a chance to vote with their feet. That’s a good thing.

  3. The public gets to vote with their feet (yay free market!), while the lower fares and packed aircraft on United and American lead to higher costs for everyone, as communities lock down, and their health systems are overwhelmed.

    There’s no free market in a pandemic.

  4. I think after seeing the Delta quarterly results today, I see whats going on. UA and AA don’t believe there will be another bailout and are acting accordingly by filling middle seats. Southwest is chasing market share so they don’t care about filling planes so they will keep middle seats unsold. Jetblue and Delta are angling for another government bailout. Jetblue and Delta are hoping that leaving the middle seats open helps them to get another bailout in the name of fighting the virus.

    All the airlines are putting pressure on the politicians for another bailout when they are publicly warning of large scale layoffs.

  5. Just returned from a round trip. On Delta Tucson to DCA….comfort and coach. The experience was extraordinary. Planes were spotless and the crew kind and accommodating.

  6. I like what Delta is doing. If some of you don’t like it, fly American or United instead.

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