Delta Won’t Sell More Than 60% Of Seats On Any Flight Through June 30

I really have to take my hat off to Delta. They were first to announce a truly rigorous new cleaning regimen for even domestic flights. They were first among major U.S. airlines to extend elite status.

And now they’re doing something fairly remarkable, as first reported by Jason Rabinowitz. Delta is going to cap the number of seats they sell in each cabin of their aircraft through June 30, to promote social distancing. Delta will also require customers to wear face masks starting May 4.

The way that social distancing has worked on planes so far is airlines block their seat map and don’t let people assign themselves seats next to each other. On most flights there are plenty of empty rows these days, and everything works out.

However – and this is explicit policy on American and on United – if there are more passengers than seat assignments on a flight, they’ll unblock those middles. Airlines haven’t been limiting the number of seats they sell, just holding back from assigning middle seats unless they need to.

Delta is doing something different – they’re actually trying to limit the number of passengers on board each flight. They’re only doing this through June 30. They’ll sell up to 60% of capacity in each of their cabins, but only 50% in domestic first class, so each person can have an empty seat beside them.

A policy like this will not last. Aircraft are expensive to own and operate, which means their limited real estate comes at a high price. Distancing on planes is going to be really challenging in the future when travel comes back and there are more people on board. Giving more space to each person would mean much higher prices.

Bear in mind that if an empty seat next to you is important you can just buy one. And of course there are extra legroom seats and first class seats for purchase.

Ultimately however having a foot and a half of space between you and a seat opponent doesn’t give you nearly enough space to avoid catching something if that person is infectious. You’d need several rows of space, and that isn’t going to be in the offing.

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. Gary, You last two sentences said it all. However, I will not avoid flying as long as I am confident that aircraft cleaning is being done properly and I am able to disinfect my own space. Lastly, and much to my chagrin, I’ll be wearing a mask.

  2. Combining the additional spacing with the REQUIREMENT that all passengers wear masks will have a big impact (although I certainly don’t have the experience to quantify it). Surgical mask wearing severely limits the amount of virus that an infected individual (who may not be presenting symptoms) will shed beyond the mask, and the distance that the shed virus will travel if it makes it past the mask. Wearing a surgical style mask protects others from you (if you’re infected). So, for surgical type masks to be effective, EVERYONE must wear them. No exceptions. If ONE person refuses to wear a mask, and they are shedding virus, then they could infect everyone they come into near proximity with, even if the people they infect are wearing surgical masks. Note that if you wear a properly fitted respirator mask (e.g. an N95 type mask), that can go a long way to protecting the wearer.

    I applaud Delta for requiring that everyone onboard wear a mask starting May 4, and I hope that all passengers and crew comply. I do wonder, however, how they will enforce it. Good luck to them on that. It will be a challenge to persuade some individuals that choose to adopt the President’s attitude that they don’t have to wear a mask, that it’s optional. That attitude will put everyone else at risk. I hope that Delta informs everyone before they board that “if you want to travel to X today on this Delta flight, you must wear a mask at all times while on board. No exceptions.”

  3. Goddddd… more idiotic rules and policies to placate the masses.

    I thought Delta was above this…
    I hoped Delta was beyond window dressing like this.

    But – I guess we as a society deserve this.
    We act like children in the face of a simple virus – so, now we’re being told how to dress.

    Like lambs to a slaughter – we go willingly.
    Civil liberties? Who needs ’em.
    Critical thinking and cognitive reasoning? Meh, the government can do that for me.
    Being independent, and have personal responsibility? Nah, I’ll let others tell me what to do.

    Not only is the cure WAY worse than the illness here (200,000 people have died in 6 months, when 160,000 people a DAY die normally… 60,000,000 a year).

    People are so bad at math, and assessing risk, that they just let FEAR run rampant.
    I think of all the young kids who will die of measles. All the trash we are throwing in our landfills now with latex gloves, face masks.
    I think of the recession and all the domestic violence and suicide. Bankruptcies and broken families.

    And – all the while, the public is saying ‘Tell us what to do government!! Please, we can’t think for our selves. We can’t even dress ourselves. Tell us what to do!!’

    God, it’s sickening.

    I need to figure out if I will cancel all my upcoming Delta trips or not. God, this is so much worse than the virus itself… We’re like children… begging for our mommies….

  4. Excellent post, George. The response by the uninformed masses to this planned-demic is pathetic.

    P.S. That includes the blog owner.

  5. @ George and James N — Make sure to leave your masks at home when you go to your Trump rallies.

  6. Hi Gene-

    I have never voted for a republican in my life. But… thanks for bringing another non-fact to the discussion.

    How does it feel to be completely and 100% wrong?

    Do you apologize, or just double down on it?
    I bet you double down.
    That’s what sheep do. They just bleat and bleat until the master brings them to the slaughtehouse.

    You feel better to you to argue with someone online than to use logic, facts or reason.
    Very impressive work Gene. Let me guess, you work for CNBC or the NY Times.
    Am I right??

  7. @George – since you take such pride in flaunting best practices at the moment, go fly every week w/o face masks and stop posting on these blogs. May CV19 find you and smack you in the face.

  8. Can anyone tell me where in the contract of carriage it says Delta can require me to wear a mask?

    Unless you are wearing a properly fitted, properly donned respirator, this is little more than COVID Theater. I see medical professionals frequently who have not fitted their mask properly.

    I have an n100 full-face piece respirator that was properly fitted AND I was instructed on how to properly don it. Can I wear that on delta? I have a feeling people would be uncomfortable with me looking like the hazmat team or a military CBRN team.

    Just a reminder, if those planes don’t fly full now, airline employees lose their jobs in October.

  9. UA-NYC-

    I am already doing that 🙂 I am flying EVERY week – NOW. Without a mask 🙂
    Currently in the South on a 6 day road trip.

    I go home for 1-2 days, then fly again. Every week, actually until June 2021 I have trips planned and many flights booked.

    Been to 9 or 10 countries already this year, and will finish all 50 states. I am traveling NOW. Today, I’m typing this from a hotel on a trip.

    No masks.
    You know why?
    Because this is the most overhyped, silly panic in the history of modern society. And, I’m as scared of this virus as I am about swine flu, or zika or ebola. Not at all (and I was in west african countries earlier this year that had that stuff in the past).

    I worry more about getting hit and killed while driving than I do a virus. One of those statistically kills about 5x more people than the other… did you know that?
    (I’ll give you a hint, auto accidents kill 1.2Million a year. Virus is, currently what, over 200,000 and slowing?)

    So, uhm, any other silly things you want to add?

    Everyone so far that has posted here about me, or my situation. Has been wrong.
    This is kind of fun. I knew people on the internet were wrong a lot… but, this is impressive.

    Why don’t you guys stop watching CNN or Fox, and read some data and studies and then, maybe you’ll make better decisions in life – and not be scared of your own shadow or your neighbors cough.

  10. @George. Your position is traditional liberal. The song “Signs” by Five Man Electrical Band comes to mind. You raise a good question about whether civil liberties are being surrendered without the consent of the governed. [Hope I am not putting words in your mouth.]

    Just ignore UA-NYC. If you don’t agree with him, then “May CV19 find you and smack you in the face.” What a total creep.

  11. @George. I might have put words in your mouth. Sorry. Nevertheless, I think you viewpoint is totally valid. I personally do not think a mask will stop the coronavirus on a plane (read petri dish). I have no intention of not traveling, although right now I am stuck in New York City. Actually, I am more worried about getting on the subway in New York City, than the plane. However, I am part sheep, and will wear a mask. Cheers.

  12. @George

    For a person who wants to scoff at others’ argument skills, yours aren’t very compelling, or intelligent really, at all.

    What is the point of comparing the number of deaths from COVID-19 to the number of deaths due to ALL causes? If anything, the first will just add on to the second.

    You say only 200,000 have died from this virus, but has it never occured to you that the death count has been kept relatively low precisely because of all the efforts that have been taken worldwide to inhibit this virus? Do you really think if life had gone on as usual, especially with all the flying which is a way of literally transporting the virus across the globe, the numbers would have even remotely been the same?

    Also, a pandemic is not just about deaths but also about mass spread among people, which eventually becomes a huge medical liability. Do you think our medical facilities/personnel would be able to handle an exponential surge, in patients, that know no bounds?

    You mention other causes of deaths that we supposedly ignore, like driving. Yes, people are killed in car accidents all the time, and yet that’s not an argument to ban cars. However, we also do everything we can to prevent such accidents as much as the system permits. We have stringent driving laws in place. We don’t drive up the wrong side of the road and call it freedom. Heck, we wear seatbelts – what’s your take on those? It must be a gross encroachment upon your freedom to be required to wear those.

    Of course you would talk about the economy since that’s the only possible positive contribution of your actions, as if your flying every week and taking road trips at these particular times is somehow an altruistic act designed to save jobs in the aviation industry, to save a potentially broken family that you never met. What about a potential COVID patient who could have been saved if you stayed at home?

    Look, if you want to be that selfish and refuse to take any of these measures the rest of the world is taking to fight this virus seriously, I guess no one can really stop you. But don’t spin this around and try to invalidate our efforts because quite frankly, if anything, the reason you can still take your weekly trips is because we’ve managed to keep this outbreak down to the current state.

  13. 233K in 3 months and not slowing Gene. Try multiplying that by 4 and comparing to auto fatalities and get back to me. And that’s with reasonable people staying at home or wearing masks when they go out. It would be a lot higher if there are more people like you. Fortunately there aren’t. My father in law died of the corona virus. Maybe you guys sat next to each other on a flight. Or maybe tomorrow you can infect someone new, principles intact. I’m sorry the evil airlines are asking you to wear a mask so you don’t spread a deadly virus that you may or may not have and I understand the historical sacrifice that is being asked of you. It’s massive and difficult and maybe you aren’t up to it.

  14. @Other Just Saying – thanks for the kind words of support. You totally get it. I hear from a LOT of people privately that they agree with me. But, they are scared to speak out. The internet mob mentality of most people these days makes reasoned debate…. impossible.

    It’s just like we see here in these comments.
    No data. No evidence, just opinions why *I* need to change my behavior. Just telling *me* what to do.

    People don’t use data – they just yell ‘My dad’s friend died of CV! Shut down the world you monsters, no more freedoms for you!

  15. @CD. Uhm, if he was at risk of a disease as mild as this… why was he flying?

    Why didn’t he self isolate since February and refuse to see or be around anyone?
    Why was he exposing himself to the rest of the world?

    I’m not trying to pick on a person who has passed on. But, you’re proving my point….
    A high degree of personal responsibility would dictate HE took care of himself.
    He locked himself in a room if that was best for him.

    It *doesn’t* mean everyone in the world stops their lives – because someone else is worried they might get a virus. That’s…. that’s not how the world works.

    You look at this through the lens of ‘everyone should do what I want them to do’ – because… this is scary times.

    I look at it through the lens of ‘we kill, hurt and damage more people, by telling everyone what to do’.
    And, that, frankly, the death count is so low, the mortality of this virus is sooo low.

    That we over-reacted MASSIVELY.
    And you know what – no one is admitting that. (I wish we had more people like Elon Musk to stand up to this nonsense)

    Your viewpoint is not only unscientific, but it’s selfish, and arguably unAmerican.
    You can use the argument ‘but, I’m scared’ as much as you want.

    Those of us with brains are NOT scared. So, stop trying to tell us what to do.
    I am for individual freedom – not groupthink that turns a non-situation – into a global economic disaster.

  16. @Gldla

    Again, telling me ‘I’m not very intelligant’ when you don’t know me, what I do, what businesses I run, my IQ, or anything… it just makes you look silly.

    You say some incorrect things, as most of the general public does, because, I presume, you don’t look at data. You just act in fear. To whit:

    You say: “What is the point of comparing the number of deaths from COVID-19 to the number of deaths due to ALL causes? If anything, the first will just add on to the second.”

    Response: Nope, that’s now how this work. No one has shown any data that MORE people are dying. More people are dying of CV than last year – since CV didn’t exist. True.
    But, less people are then dying of Influenza… so, the numbers will *likely* average out.

    Now, we don’t have a full years data, so, we don’t know for sure. But you are confusing two topics.
    You need to understand this.

    If 60,000,000 people a year die normally. And in 2020, 59,999,999 people end up dying… (which is, obviously, the likely outcome)
    What exactly will your argument be?

    You say “Do you really think if life had gone on as usual, especially with all the flying which is a way of literally transporting the virus across the globe, the numbers would have even remotely been the same?”

    I think an argument can be made that the growth of air travel has enabled viral infections to spread more rapidly and easily around the globe. Sure, I’ve seen data that agrees with that.

    What’s your recommendation? Shut down air travel?

    Let me guess… ban anything but ‘essential travel’ – am I right? No more vacations, no more business travel. Only… uhm, people you like?
    Can you tell us all what to do every week then?

    Viruses will spread – they’ve done that since the beginning of time.
    So, maybe instead of stopping the world – we encourage better hygiene, we teach people how viral infections work, and we educate our people on how to mitigate the risks.

    Instead, we locked our children inside for life – because we are scared they might get hurt on the playground.

    Yeah, no thanks. Your argument certainly doesn’t correlate to reasonable action.
    More fear based reactions.

    ‘What about a potential COVID patient who could have been saved if you stayed at home?’

    Uhmmmm, why were they flying and traveling then?
    This is such a silly argument.

    If you are at risk of a disease, why wouldn’t you manage it yourself?
    I’m turned to learn all these at risk, very fragile people, are globe trotting the world along side me.

    Most of the patients who die of CV, are out of the workforce – they don’t have jobs.. Yet, we stopped everyone with a job from going to work.

    Again, you’re confusing personal responsibility – with fear.
    If you are a high risk patient for diabetes – you shouldn’t eat skittles and steak.
    That doesn’t mean the REST OF US should be banned from eating those things.

    THAT is what you’re missing. I exercise personal responsibility, but I also still have my freedom.

    When you, and the rest of the mob, chip away at personal freedoms now… ‘because, just this one time, you know, for safety’…
    What happens in 5 years? When they come for your freedoms again?
    Maybe all muslims need to be detained… you know, for safety?
    All black people need to be detained… for safety?
    All citizens need to stay indoors for 6 months, marshal law?

    You are advocating for a society that is not compassionate at all – but is weak.
    You are promoting a society where individuals are not free – they are subjects to the whim of the masses
    You are for a society of followers (but, they are compassionate George!) instead of independent.

    You all support tyranny – under the guise of altruistic reasons this time – instead of accepting responsibility for your own decisions, allowing people to freely chose how to live theirs.
    You blame others instead of owning your own actions.

  17. Gene – no idea 🙂 Never been relevant to my business enterprises.
    Solve a problem, provide great customer support, hire good people, take care of them, and things tend to work out – regardless of inherent brain power.

    So, I filed a formal complaint with Delta today.
    I have flights booked on May 4th… so, we’ll see what happens if they demand I cover my face.

    Enjoying a nice evening at an empty BNB in Mississippi.
    Everyone so appreciates me traveling, and is hoping things pick up shortly.

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