- Delta Air Lines is blocking middle seats on its aircraft through April 30.
- Delta is the only major US airline that still blocks seats as most abandoned the practice in 2020.
- CEO Ed Bastian had said in October 2020 that the policy may come to an end by mid-2021.
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Delta Air Lines will continue blocking middle seats through the end of April, the airline announced on Monday, longer than any major US airline.
The announcement brings Delta into a full year of blocking seats, a policy that began when air traveler numbers were at their lowest as travelers feared contracting COVID-19 in the skies. Delta leaped forward ahead of competitors in November by announcing seats would be blocked until March 30 as most airlines began filling their planes.
“We want our customers to have complete confidence when traveling with Delta, and they continue to tell us that more space provides more peace of mind,” Bill Lentsch, Delta’s chief customer experience officer, said in a statement.
Alaska Airlines was the last airline to block middle seats as it ended the policy in January. Delta’s main rival in the Pacific Northwest opted instead to fill its planes while offering a new cabin called “premium class” that offers rows without middle seats.
Delta didn’t say whether this will be the last extension of the popular policy but CEO Ed Bastian did hint that the first half of 2021 would be when planes were once again filled to capacity.
“Consumer sentiment and confidence in air travel” will determine when the policy is discontinued, Bastian said in October. The airline also just posted a $2.1 adjusted loss for the fourth quarter of 2020.
Summer bookings have need been a promising indicator that the season will be profitable, even with two vaccines currently under emergency authorization from the Food and Drug Administration. American Airlines and United Airlines both cited the projected lull in demand for the summer when announcing furlough resumptions once the Payroll Support Program ends on March 31.
Read More: Airline CEOs say it doesn’t matter how well they protect passengers from COVID-19 – travel demand won’t bounce back until the pandemic ends
The one-month extension is also an indication that the policy may be coming to an end by summer. Delta’s previous announcement extended the policy by three months from January to March but this increase gives the airline the opportunity to fill planes in May if bookings improve.
“We’ll continue to reassess seat blocking in relation to case transmission and vaccination rates, while bringing back products and services in ways that instill trust in the health and safety of everyone on board – that will always be Delta’s priority,” Lentsch said.
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