Delta’s decision to continue to block seats while other airlines squeeze passengers in represents an interesting new dynamic within the U.S. market. Will Delta become America’s new premium airline?
Some may argue Delta already is the nation’s premium airline. After all, it is lauded for service, reliability, and in-flight amenities not just in premium cabins, but for economy class passengers. While other airlines rip out seat-back monitors, Delta offers them on nearly every flight.
But I’m talking about a move that would truly set it apart: keep middle seats open and charge a premium for doing so. Long before COVID-19, Delta believed it could extract a premium for its product. With its decision to extend middle seat blocking into autumn, could Delta be on the verge of truly trying to differentiate itself from others?
Through September 30th, Delta will generously cap the number of passengers on all flights:
- Delta One – 75% of capacity or less
- Premium Select, Comfort+, and Main Cabin – 60% or less
- First Class – 50% or less
That means you are virtually guaranteed an open seat next to you when you travel on Delta.
I don’t view this as about safety, though it will certainly make many passengers feel safer. Instead, I view this move as a calculated test. Will passengers pay a premium for greater peace of mind?
Having watched flights loads and TSA numbers closely over the last couple weeks, this is not just clever marketing. With schedules dramatically reduced but demand rebounding, flights are much fuller than they were even two weeks ago. In other words, Delta is theoretically taking a revenue hit by not filling up its planes.
While Delta says that it will respond to more demand by adding more flights or substituting larger aircraft at the last minute, imagine you have a product and can only sell 60% of it, even when you have 100% of it.
This is not a blog that run regressions and creates fancy charts tracking revenue differentials between American, United, and Delta. But generally, I’ll be watching the next few months to see if Delta can charge more for the same routes as others. Thus far, it looks like the answer is no.
As flight demand returns, Delta (and JetBlue) will have a decision to make: start selling middle seats or start charging a premium for leaving them open. This gives Delta a real opportunity to distinguish itself from its legacy rivals.
Do you think Delta can get away with charging a premium for leaving the middle seat open?
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As someone who’s no fan of Delta, I really hope this works. In an environment where there’s been far too much consolidation in the airline industry, any attempts to actually improve the experience for customers should be lauded.
Readers quoted in NY Times current issue say Delta does not and WILL NOT enforce masks. They SAY it but don’t do it — even FA and pilots don’t wear them all the time
SO first, no masks, I can’t sit next to someone who is going to Spew droplets on me
SECOND and MOST important — Middle seat empty does NOT give you six feet from other passenger in the row ,NOR from the guy smack in front of you or coughing at you with no mask from behind.
Empty middle seat does zero to protect you.
No mask people are filling the plane with droplets and virus. On all sides of you
Follow public health guidelines — NOT Delta marketing
This applies to every airline. The DOT refuses to institute a mask policy which means the airlines are able to require masks to board the flight, but they cannot enforce passengers to wear their masks on the plane.
Inaccurate. Wearing a mask is required and enforced unless the person has a medical reason not to be wearing one. It has been in effect for some time and is still in effect as of now. All flight attendants must wear them when performing duties.
Inaccurate. FAA considers them guidelines, not mandatory rules:
As a stockholder who has invested in DAL recently due to the dip in their stock prices, I have already seen a respectable gain so I certainly hope this works. People are having to diversify like mad right now and this has potential to help investors recover and see a profit by the end of Q3.
I would posit that Delta is looking at this, not as an opportunity to recover lost revenue through premium fares, but more as a way to generate goodwill among travelers. In this way, when loads return to near-normal or normal levels (i.e. 95% LF), they will be in a position to retain those passengers who will be enjoying a space premium for the next four months.
I’ve always wondered why airlines don’t let you pay a premium (option) for an empty seat next to you.
I pay $150 for LAX-SEA. And I click a box that says ’empty seat next to me if available – $25′
And, if the flight is not full, then the airline keeps the seat open next to the person who checked that box – and only charges them when the plane flies and that seat is indeed empty.
While I imagine it’s not an easy IT fix, you have to imagine a few thousand people a day would be willing to pay a small % extra for a vacant seat next-door.
If airlines even got $20, effectively for a seat that would have normally yielded $0… that seems like it could be a win-win.
I wonder if it is just messaging to build demand (health theater, as many call it)
as you suggest… a test to see if they can drive revenue premium.
Personally, I doubt anyone will book Delta only because they remembered Delta say ‘we will keep middle seats open’
But, I would bet people who are booking Delta, would consider paying a small premium for the cash option for an empty seat next to them.
Interesting opportunities here.
You’ve ALWAYS had the option of buying the seat next to you to keep it empty. I spent 26 years working for a major at a hub, and I saw people do this. Nothing is stopping you from doing so. You just have to inform the airline that you’re buying the extra seat for space, not a person.
I believe that it is a good idea to charge a premium for spaced seating and then after September they should phase it out by filling all seats beginning at the CG of the aircraft.
I just paid over $650 for ATL DTW advance purchase in normal economy; I’d say they’re getting a premium! Makes sense; my Econ 101 textbook said prices will be higher with supply constrained. The profitability issue for the time being is too few flights sold at these impressive RPM levels to overcome the fixed cost and overheads.
I do expect Delta to separate itself further from AA and UA, stockholderwise, in both the June quarter results and September quarter results. They’re just plain better at running an airline for investors.
This is why (optics): https://liveandletsfly.com/frontier-blocked-middle-seats/
If this stay, how much will DL asks for it? If it is almost the same price as a First class seat than fly First class instead. If you are stuck in Eco class, it is far more important, of course more space in between as well as infront and behind you, beside having a proper distance, a decent approach to the health measures. Wearing masks, washing your hands oftenly, sneezing and coughing in your inside ot the elbow etc..I just hope the pax around me are also considerate people who think of our health and well being onboard.
Delta is conducting a test during a time when the opportunity cost of being wrong is almost zero. They’ll know what and how much people are willing to pay for once demand does return to a meaningful amount.
I will always pay for value, which is why I mostly fly SWA with some DL. As I travel more, I’m liking where DL is going with this.
This is a dangerous gamble. Airlines can’t make money unless flights are mostly full. Right now they don’t have to worry because almost no flights are full but Delta is setting a standard that is unsustainable. My dad said it is always easy to go up but hard to come down. Don’t overpromise. What happens come September and Delta can’t keep the middle seats open anymore? Or if they do, are they going to overnight cut flight attendant salaries to offset costs since they are not union? The only way passengers can 100% guarantee an open seat to them is to buy it as well. Unless DL starts charging a lot more to guarantee that open seat, I just don’t see this being a long term strategy. They are basically paying for 1 or 2 extra flight attendants to stand around and do nothing bc for every 50 seats FAA mandates 1 FA whether or not any passengers are in them. That’s extra health care, insurance, worker benefits, etc for people doing nothing.
Delta is committed to keeping employees and customers as safe as possible during this crisis. They already have an excess of flight attendants due to the extreme draw down in flights. Better to have these employees flying—they do have monthly minimum guarantees.
Delta was already my go to airline. They cancelled my flights to/from PWM/NYC and actually gave me my money back!!!!! Air France still is holding onto my $20,457.32 even though they cancelled the flights!! For the rest of my life I will book through Delta. My children and grandchildren will book Delta. The new trust documents require it. I am encouraging my friends and workmates to fly Delta.
For me, Delta has stepped over a penny to earn a dollar.
Loyal DL flier, platinum level but will shift to SW.
Asinine, no reason to block midfield lo e sest unless you want to make sheeple feel safe.
Airline cabin air is hepa filtered. Wear a mask and wipe down your tray.
You want an empty seat next to you pay for it like you’ve alwa6been able to.
All have to wear masks for full protection. Read the science.
Masks protect OTHERS from your droplets
YOU are not protected from them unless they wear masks — and NOT ONE MAJOR AIRLINE is currently enforcing their mask “rules” — so welcome to the Petri dish. See NYT story from fliers
How did you get them to answer you? In Feb, I bought a ticket for an unaccompanied minor to fly end of june. Can’t get confirmation by phone, messenger or email.
Delta should fix their disastrous customer service first. Broken website, 10+ hours waiting on the phone to speak to a rep.!!!
Airlines have tried this before and failed……remember Air One and when TWA created more leg room? Both attempts failed.
They may find success in the short term until a vaccine becomes widely available.
Delta just wants to justify higher prices for less service. Nobody cares if the middle seat is empty or not — somebody in front of or in back of you is still closer than six feet. The person sitting on the other side of you is still closer than six feet. Just another tactic for Delta to justify their crazy airfares from their dirty and mediocre fortress hub.
This is intriguing, however the average flying public does so with just one thing in mind, who can get me there the cheapest? On the flip side of this, as an employee of a major airline, one of the biggest reasons I am there is not the perpetual night shifts I’ve been on 15 years straight. It is the ability to fly non-revenue. This was difficult pre-covid due to load factors and almost impossible now with the middle rows banished and even worse trying to get on a regional flight. So, Delta might want to be the airline of choice, but I suspect in the end, the numbers will work against them from all angles, especially that family of five flying to Orlando, let’s see how it unfolds.
All good until the person on the aisle assumes the seat is going empty and starts piling their stuff on it or worse still, raises the arm rest and spreads out into the seat that YOU HAVE PAID FOR! I can imagine this will lead to flight attendants having much more conflict resolution to deal with. I once paid for the seat next to me on a red eye flight from DRW to SYD in Y class, in order to spread out. Came back from the toilet to discover that the passenger on the aisle had moved her toddler to the empty seat to feed him. When I explained the situation, she glared at me and said “you obviously don’t travel with children that much”. Which is true. But I didn’t pay a fare for an empty seat next to me, just do that she could take advantage of it..
Delta will never be a number one airline. No international first class cabon only primitive delta one which is a joke.they can not repeat not compete with af sq ek
How about what will happen to the CURRENT pilots of 2347 + that are now displaced?
No plane to fly or no hub currently as of the end of May?
Delta is THE best airline.