- 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 July 6. American Airlines is capping the number of seats they sell, but not low enough to avoid assigning middles. United isn’t capping seats at all, their CEO echoes Michael O’Leary of Ryanair when he says “airplanes don’t have social distancing.”
Delta is also working towards electrostatic spraying to disinfect planes between every flight, there are still airports that lack the devices but that’s expected to change this summer. Most airlines are only doing this once per day overnight. And Delta is even working to get it done at TSA checkpoints, too.
One Mile at a Time wonders if Delta is doing this to position for another government bailout, because they’re being so consumer-friendly. And while the President won’t want to see mass layoffs one month before the election and airline lobbyists have begun to suggest the idea of a second round of funding, I don’t think that’s plausible.
- Delta’s middle seat blocking and cleaning differentiate it from the industry, while it’s industry-wide practice that’s going to influence public opinion.
- Republicans were skeptical of the first bailout. Grown ups in the Democratic economic establishment view airline bailouts as destructive. The argument that won was saving jobs, but job cuts are actually coming by mid-July even if workers get paid through September.
Instead it does seem like Delta is positioning itself to grow and capture market share, offering “[o]n routes where increasing customer demand is driving flight loads closer to our caps, we will look for opportunities to upsize to a larger aircraft type or add more flying.”
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.
These are both strategies to make it to the other side of the crisis, but as long as both airlines do make it Delta’s seems likely to offer greater future returns.