Delta Air Lines is happy to troll competitors on Twitter over failing to block middle seats, but won’t say how long it will continue its own seat blocking policy.
Delta Air Lines, The Twitter Troll
A tweet, aptly timed for upcoming Halloween holiday, notes:
A haunted house, but they’re not blocking middle seats.
— Delta (@Delta) October 22, 2020
The tweet came hours after Southwest Airlines announced it would stop blocking middle seats on December 1, 2020. As for the haunted house reference, I can only imagine this is a play on “trick or treat?”
Southwest claims continued middle seat blocking is not commercially feasible and that even on a full flight passengers are incredibly safe (assuming mask compliance, of course).
That hasn’t stopped many passengers from expressing outrage over the change in policy, particularly those who have trips booked for after December 1st.
Southwest will alert passengers if a flight is more than 65% full and allow complimentary changes. That said, if one flight is full, there’s a decent chance the next one will be too.
How Long Will Delta Block Middle Seats?
Delta has made clear that it will not block middle seats indefinitely. Currently, it has extended its seat blocking policy (including both economy class and first class) to January 6, 2021.
Speaking to Maria Bartiromo on Fox Business, Bastian promised seat blocking would continue “well into next year” but refused to pinpoint a date in which its policy might change.
Delta has chosen seat blocking at the expense of other in-flight services. While American Airlines and United Airlines have brought back meals and beverage on many routes, Delta continues to strictly limit food and drink service onboard.
Delta has carved out its position as the U.S. premium airline when it comes to seat blocking. But with revenue still hurting and nothing else to cutback in terms of in-flight service, this policy cannot last forever.
My guess is that next spring the seat blocking will go away, with Delta claiming that promising vaccination trials and improved testing regimes make such blocking no longer necessary. Delta knows already that this isn’t primarily about safety, it is about comfort. The long-term question, then, is whether customers will be willing to pay a premium once travel picks up again.
Alaska Airlines will also continue to block middle seat until at least January 5, 2021 while JetBlue will stop guaranteeing open middle seats starting in December.