Delta's done it again. After implementing a blocked-middle-seat policy early on during the pandemic, the airline has extended it for the third time? Fourth time? Fifth? Honestly, we've lost count. But hey, this is a great thing for passengers.
Delta is the lone holdout in the onboard social distancing game—while several other U.S. airlines blocked middle seats in 2020, they've all reverted to full planes. Though we're very confident that planes aren't the COVID cesspools you might expect (between mask usage and HEPA filters, the cabins are relatively safe), we still love the idea of having a little more elbow room.
“We want our customers to have complete confidence when traveling with Delta, and they continue to tell us that more space provides more peace of mind,” Bill Lentsch, Delta's chief customer experience officer, said in a statement. “We’ll continue to reassess seat blocking in relation to case transmission and vaccination rates while bringing back products and services in ways that instill trust in the health and safety of everyone on board—that will always be Delta’s priority.”
The extension of the seat-blocking policy doesn't come cheap. According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), which actively opposes blocking middle seats, the policy means that many Delta planes would have a maximum load capacity of 62 percent—below the average break-even point of 77 percent. "Eliminating the middle seat will raise costs. If that can be offset that with higher fares, the era of affordable travel will come to an end," Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s director general and CEO, said in a statement. "On the other hand, if airlines can’t recoup the costs in higher fares, airlines will go bust. Neither is a good option when the world will need strong connectivity to help kick-start the recovery from COVID-19’s economic devastation."
While it's true that Delta is hurting financially, having lost $12.4 billion in 2020, we're not too afraid of the airline going under (for now), thanks in part to the government bailout for airlines. The only thing we're wondering is whether or not Delta will extend its seat-blocking policies again.