Delta has just announced an extension to its industry-leading seat blocking policy.
How does Delta’s seat blocking policy work?
Delta Air Lines’ seat blocking policy is now valid through April 30, 2021, which is a one month extension beyond the previous date of March 30, 2021. Delta’s seat blocking policy includes the following restrictions:
- Delta will block adjacent seats in first class on domestic US flights
- Delta will block middle seats on all flights in economy, Comfort+ (extra legroom economy), and Premium Select (premium economy)
- Delta will block one aisle of seats on regional jets (which have a 2-2 configuration in economy, meaning that 25% of seats are blocked)
- Delta is capping the maximum capacity in economy at 75% (this assumes that a lot of groups are traveling together, which won’t be the case on many flights)
- When parties of three or more are traveling together in economy, an entire row can be selected
- When parties of two or more are traveling in first class, adjacent seats can be selected
Select seats will continue to be blocked on Delta regional jets
Delta’s seat blocking policy is the best in the industry, though it’s worth noting that the current policy is scaled back a bit compared to what it was at the beginning of the pandemic:
- Delta One used to be limited to at most 60% of capacity, but for planes with two aisles, there are no more capacity restrictions
- Regional jets in a 2-2 configuration used to be capped at 50% of capacity at most (as the aisle or window seats were blocked), while they’re now capped at 75% of capacity
Delta will keep blocking middle seats
Delta is outdoing competitors here
Most airlines around the globe dismissed the concept of blocking seats since the start of the pandemic. While that wouldn’t offer “true” social distancing, it would at least offer some amount of personal space, and give people some peace of mind.
Among US airlines, four airlines have blocked seats in a significant way — Alaska, Delta, JetBlue, and Southwest. It’s worth acknowledging that Delta has kept this benefit around significantly longer than competitors:
- Southwest stopped blocking seats as of December 1, 2020
- JetBlue stopped blocking seats as of January 7, 2021
- Alaska stopped blocking seats as of January 7, 2021
At this point Delta is the only major US airline to be blocking seats.
Delta will continue to block seats through at least March 2021
Seat blocking is getting costly for Delta
When the pandemic first started, seat blocking probably wasn’t too costly for Delta to offer, given how few people were flying. However, at this point airlines have drastically reduced capacity while the number of people traveling has generally increased, meaning that many of the flights still operating are fairly full.
It’s clearly costing Delta quite a bit to offer this benefit. While the airline has long tried to differentiate itself from American and United (which aren’t blocking seats), I’m not sure Delta is getting the short-term payoff it was expecting.
For what it’s worth, Delta’s financial results haven’t been great in the past few quarters, and don’t really suggest that the airline is getting a revenue premium that reflects people valuing this policy.
Personally I think it’s likely that this is the last extension of Delta’s generous seat blocking policy. In the past the seat blocking was extended by at least a couple of months at a time, while we’re now seeing a one month extension.
Has Delta’s seat blocking policy paid off?
Delta Air Lines will continue blocking seats through April 30, 2021. While there were initially four major US airlines blocking seats, at this point Delta is the only airline to have such a policy.
This is a fantastic development, and I’d absolutely go out of my way to choose Delta over a competitor because of this. If nothing else, it sure is more comfortable to fly with an empty seat next to you.
Unfortunately I suspect this might be the last extension of this benefit.
Would you go out of your way to fly an airline that’s blocking seats? And do you think Delta will extend seat blocking beyond April 30?