All good things must come to an end. It's a bittersweet moment: Delta Air Lines is finally opening up the middle seats on its planes beginning May 1. On the one hand, this is great news for the airline, as it shows that business is back up. On the other, it was really, really nice to have all the middle seats open.
The Atlanta-based airline was the longest holdout for blocked middle seat policies among U.S. airlines—it enacted the provision in April 2020, as social distancing became the norm in pandemic society. Despite the ample research that's proven that COVID-19 transmission isn't likely on a plane, whether or not you're seated directly next to someone (as long as everyone's wearing a mask), Delta won passengers' trust by keeping middle seats blocked for so long—at the expense of losing revenue from those unsold tickets.
But as vaccines become widely available across the U.S., Delta has finally decided the time has come to fill its planes once more.
"While Delta’s decision to block middle seats has given many customers a reason to choose Delta over the past year, the signature hospitality of our employees and the experiences they deliver to customers every day have also deepened their trust in our airline,” Delta CEO Ed Bastian said in a statement. “The relationships we’ve built, together with the knowledge that nearly 65 percent of those who flew Delta in 2019 anticipate having at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine by May 1, are what’s giving us the assurance to offer customers the ability to choose any seat on our aircraft, while also introducing new services, products, and rewards to support the journey."
We have to admit—those new services are pretty enticing. Starting April 14, Delta will resume some food and beverage service in all cabins, while hot meals in Delta One and First Class will resume on some routes as early as June. The airline has also announced a "fast track" program for earning 2022 Medallion status and extensions on travel credits and vouchers through 2022.
Ultimately, we're excited to see the airline business recover, but we sure will miss empty middle seats.