Keeping That Middle Seat Empty? Delta to Kill Policy

It's the last US airline to do so
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Mar 31, 2021 10:35 AM CDT
As of May, No US Airline Will Keep Middle Seats Empty
In this Feb. 3, 2021, file photo, a passenger wears a face mask as she travels on a Delta Air Lines flight after taking off from Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in Georgia.   (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel, File)

Delta Air Lines, the last US airline still blocking middle seats, will end that policy in May as air travel recovers and more people become vaccinated against COVID-19. The decision announced Wednesday reversed a policy that had been in place since last April, and which Delta's CEO had repeatedly cited as raising trust in the airline, reports the AP. CEO Ed Bastian said Wednesday that nearly 65% of people who flew on Delta last year expect to have at least one dose of the new vaccines by May 1. That, he said, gave Delta the assurance to end seating limits. But CNN notes that's about all it's ending on the COVID front, per a Wednesday email Bastian sent to employees.

It reads in part, "Don't confuse these actions with a return to 'normal.' We're still operating in a pandemic, and many of the changes we've made over the past year, such as strengthening our cleanliness protocols and eliminating change fees, will be permanent." In-flight snacks, however, are coming back as of mid-April. The airline industry was divided over the utility of blocking middle seats to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19 on a flight. Airlines including Delta, Southwest, Alaska, and JetBlue limited seating for months, while United Airlines never did and American did only briefly. The Wall Street Journal notes Delta has suffered bigger losses than the other major carriers. More than 1 million travelers have gone through US airports for each of the last 20 days, although March traffic remains down nearly half from the same month in 2019.

(Read more Delta Air Lines stories.)

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