It was nice while it lasted, but Southwest Airlines will stop blocking middle seats on December 1, 2020. Southwest claims the science demonstrates middle seat blocking is no longer necessary.
Southwest Airlines Will Stop Blocking Middle Seats
After announcing another $1.2 billion quarterly loss, Southwest Airlines is done blocking middle seats. Starting in December, Southwest will sell planes to full capacity. Currently, Southwest only sells 2/3 of its seats, meaning every passenger is guaranteed not to sit next to a stranger involuntarily. Southwest says this change will result in $20 million in lost potential revenue in October and up to $60 million in November.
Speaking of the change, Southwest Airlines noted:
“This practice of effectively keeping middle seats open bridged us from the early days of the pandemic, when we had little knowledge about the behavior of the virus, to now. Today, aligned with science-based findings from trusted medical and aviation organizations, we will resume selling all available seats for travel beginning December 1, 2020.”
I’ve always thought this was more about comfort than safety in terms of airline policy. Indeed, I argued that Delta Air Lines could distinguish itself as the premium U.S. carrier by continuing to block middle seats. Nevertheless, Live and Let’s Fly has demonstrated that blocking middle seats does provide statically significant additional protection for travelers.
If more than 65% of seats are booked, Southwest will notify passengers ahead of time, giving them the option of switching to another flight at no additional cost.
If you are looking for a guaranteed middle seat, Alaska Airlines and Delta Air Lines will continue to block middle seats through January 6, 2021. JetBlue is on the fence and has not made clear if it will block seats beyond November 30, 2020.
The good news for travelers is that passenger load factors remain depressed, so in most cases you still will not have a person next to you.
Will this policy change at Southwest Airlines cause you to fly another carrier?
image: Southwest Airlines