Delta Air Lines, the last American airline still blocking middle seats, will end that policy on May 1 as air travel recovers and more and more people get vaccinated against COVID-19.
The decision, announced on Wednesday, nullified a policy from last April, and was repeatedly cited by Delta CEOs as increasing trust in the airline.
CEO Ed Bastian said Wednesday that about 65 percent of those flying to Delta last year expected at least one dose of new vaccines by May 1, he said, assuring Delta would end the seating limit .
The airline industry was divided over the utility of blocking the middle seats to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19 on the flight. Airlines, including Delta, Southwest, Alaska and JetBlue, had limited seating for months, while United Airlines never did and American only briefly did so.
Social-distancing is difficult if not impossible on an airplane, even if the middle seat is vacant – a point which United CEO Scott Kirby made several times to convince his airline of resistance to seat-blocking.
All airlines carried out an aggressive campaign to reassure passengers about the safety of flights until everyone wears a mask – this is now a federal requirement. He paid for a report from Harvard University that concluded that the risk of spreading the virus during a flight is low because most aircraft have strong ventilation and high-grade air filters.
Air travel in the United States is recovering from the epidemic. More than 1 million passengers pass through US airports For each of the last 20 days, though in March 2019 the traffic has been reduced to almost half of the same month.
The numbers are increasing during the summer holiday season. Last summer there was a catastrophe for the airlines, which contributed more than $ 12 billion to Delta’s full-year losses. Airlines are eager to increase revenue as soon as possible, and that means selling more seats.
Delta announced a smorgasbord of other changes. Tickets purchased or expiring this year will be good until the end of 2022, Delta will offer a faster path to elite status in its loyalty program for the remainder of 2021, and it will bring back snacks on April 14.