Delta will stop blocking the center seat on its flights starting May 1, making it the last major airline to implement the post-pandemic security measures.
Their decision comes as more people prepare for air travel for work and vacation, as the United States seeks to recapture the pre-pandemic travel bug.
“Our customers have always been the voices that guide us at Delta, and that was amplified during the pandemic,” said Delta CEO Ed Bastian in a statement announcing the shift.
Over the past year, we have transformed our service to ensure their health, safety, convenience and comfort during their travels. As vaccinations become more widespread and confidence in travel grows, we are ready to help customers reclaim their lives. ‘
Delta reverses its pandemic policy of blocking middle seats on flights
Other safety and health guidelines, including mask mandates, remain in effect for Delta
Bastian stated that 65 percent of people who flew with Delta in 2019 will be at least partially vaccinated by May 1, which would help promote the resurgence of the middle seat.
Most of the major airlines started selling their middle seats months ago, but Delta stood out by enforcing their April 2020 ban for more than a full year.
In fact, it had become the overriding factor for some travelers who chose Delta specifically because of the middle seat restrictions.
Masks remain necessary for flyers and other hygiene measures taken by the company remain in effect, including hand cleaning stations on board.
Delta also extended the credit for canceled tickets for both 2020 and 2021 through the end of 2022.
All major airlines now allow middle seats to be booked (Bulgaria Air flight shown)
Pictured: An airport worker disinfects a plane at Ronald Reagan National Airport
Delta teamed up with the renowned Mayo Clinic to come up with many of their current policies.
The airline also plans to reintroduce onboard snacks and drinks for flyers on April 14, influencing the design of the Mayo Clinic.
“We’re very proud of the trust we’ve built with customers by listening and delivering what they said was most important, and that’s the approach you can continue to expect,” Bastian continued.
According to a study to which Delta refers, the odds of COVID-19 being transmitted on a flight where everyone is wearing a mask is nearly 1 in 1,000,000.
Delta also plans to expand canceled flight credits and resume beverage service
Still, that didn’t stop the airline from blocking the middle seat to give it more distance, probably at its own expense.
“It’s expensive,” Bastian told CNN in February of keeping the middle seat locked. “No doubt about it.”
However, resuming middle seat ticket sales doesn’t mean everything is going back to the old ways for Delta.
Delta first began blocking the sale of the center seat of their aircraft in April 2020
Don’t confuse these actions with a return to ‘normal’, Bastian said in a memo to employees obtained by CNN Business
“We are still operating in a pandemic and many of the changes we have made over the past year, such as strengthening our hygiene protocols and eliminating change costs, will be permanent.
“Importantly, masks remain critical to our ability to safely welcome more people aboard our aircraft, and we remain committed to enforcing these requirements.”
In a previous interview with NBC Nightly News, Bastian suggested that vaccine passports could become a requirement for international flights, but not domestic flights.
“I don’t see that happening in the US, but I think that will probably be a requirement internationally,” Bastian said of the possibility.
Air travel appears to be recovering after delays during the height of the pandemic, with the TSA screening a record number of passengers during spring break.
According to CBS News, the TSA has screened at least one million passengers in the United States for at least 17 consecutive days as of mid-March.
However, the industry is still nowhere near its 2019 level, with the 1.4 million passengers screened miniscule on Sunday, compared to the 2.0 million screened on the same date two years ago.
Air travel remains about 66 percent of its pre-pandemic level as the CDC continues to encourage people to delay travel plans.
“Travel increases your chances of spreading and getting COVID-19,” says the CDC website.
“Postpone travel and stay home to protect yourself and others from COVID-19, even if you’ve been vaccinated.”