On Wednesday, Delta Airlines company officials announced their plan to end its yearlong practice of blocking middle seats on May 1.
Delta had brought in this policy during the pandemic and had extended it several times. In February it planned to keep middle seats open through April 30, a period that covers spring break and Easter. It claimed that less crowded planes were a selling point with their customers.
Delta is the last U.S. airline that is still blocking middle seats in its coach sections as a safety precaution amid the pandemic. Alaska Airlines will be blocking middle seats in its premium economy through May 31. United Airlines never blocked seats, in fact a United executive last year called blocking middle seats a publicity stunt. American Airlines ended their practice of blocking some middle seats last summer, a move that drew scorn from the directors of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Delta CEO Ed Bastian, stated that throughout the pandemic, rate of vaccinating and consumer behaviour have been Delta’s benchmark on whether to end the practice. He warned last year that the blocked middle seats would not last forever. The empty seat buffers may no longer be required since the Covid vaccination roll outs are rising. Ed Bastian said on Wednesday that nearly 65% of passengers who flew Delta in 2019 are expected to have at least one dose of the vaccine by May 1. This would enable them to offer customers to choose any seat on our aircraft.
With vaccination rolling outs across the country, airlines are optimistic about an increase in bookings. The blocking of middle seats no doubt put financial pressure on Delta especially at a time when demand for air travel rebound and passengers began to resume travel activities.
Now the airline is trying to poster the unblocking of the middle seat as a positive, advertising that passengers can choose any available seat. Other changes that are coming up include the return of on-board snacks and drinks on April 14.