Delta Air Lines extends seat-blocking through March 2021

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Delta Air Lines will continue blocking seats into the spring, the carrier announced Wednesday.

The carrier’s seat caps and blocks on middle seats will now run through at least 30 March. Previously, the caps had been set to expire 6 January.

In extending the policy, Delta hopes to remove anxiety about packed planes as a reason travellers might put off returning to the skies. Many customers have not flown since the pandemic first hit the U.S. in March, and flights in the U.S. are still only about half-full on average — even after a slow recovery that began in the summer.

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Delta, citing recent studies, says it’s confident that the risk of inflight transmission is low.

“However, we recognize some customers are still learning to live with this virus and desire extra space for their peace of mind,” Bill Lentsch, Delta’s chief customer experience officer, said in a statement.

For now, Delta’s move means it will be blocking seats longer than any other of the nation’s six biggest carriers. Alaska, which had stood out along with Delta for capping sales, has a policy that is set to end 6 January. It would not be surprising, however, if Alaska moved to match Delta’s extension.

Delta’s move also stands in contrast to Southwest Airlines, which will end its policy of capping seat sales on 1 December.

Elsewhere, JetBlue is capping flights at 70% of capacity now and will up that to 85% of capacity from 2 December through 7 January. But JetBlue said it expects to begin selling flights to capacity starting 8 January.

Hawaiian appears set to end its cap on seat sales on 15 December, while American and United have been willing to sell their planes to capacity throughout most of the pandemic.

As for Delta, it will block middle seats on flights with 3-3 seating configurations. On regional jets with 2-2 seating, it will block at least one seat in each row. For planes with other configurations – notably widebody jets – sales will be capped at about 75%.

TPG reporter Zach Griff contributed to this post. 

Featured image by Zach Griff/The Points Guy

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