Delta Ending Seat Blocking As Of May 1, 2021

Delta Ending Seat Blocking As Of May 1, 2021

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It looks like Delta Air Lines’ industry-leading seat blocking policy will be coming to an end in a few weeks. On the plus side, around the same time Delta will improve its inflight service., and the airline has also announced positive changes to SkyMiles Medallion qualification for 2021.

Delta will stop blocking seats as of May 1

Since April 2020, Delta has been blocking a significant portion of seats on all flights. The policy has been adjusted over time, but it was the best in the industry. While Alaska, JetBlue, and Southwest also blocked seats to some extent, none did so as long and as consistently as Delta did.

That will finally be coming to an end, as Delta will completely stop its current seat blocking policy for flights as of May 1, 2021.

By the way, while I absolutely can’t blame Delta for this, I can’t help but chuckle at how this is being marketed. Delta is almost spinning the end of seat blocking as a positive, claiming that Delta is giving customers “more available seats to choose from.”

Those social people who loved selecting middle seats between two stranger will no doubt be thrilled to hear this news. 😉

Delta will stop blocking seats as of May 1

Why will Delta stop blocking seats?

Delta claims that its seat blocking policy has been based on both consumer behavior and vaccination rates. Delta now claims that the seat blocking policy is being updated based on the timeline for Americans being vaccinated. Specifically, Delta states that nearly 65% of those who flew Delta in 2019 anticipate having at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine by May 1.

Of course I think another major factor here is that the number of air travelers in the US has increased substantially in recent weeks, with domestic flights largely being packed, and looking a lot like a couple of years ago.

At first Delta’s seat blocking wasn’t very costly, since flights were mostly pretty empty early on in the pandemic. When Delta mentions that this is also based on “consumer behavior,” I think that largely comes down to the airline finding that most customers aren’t willing to pay a 50-100% premium for blocked seats anymore, so the math becomes hard to justify.

Domestic US flights are starting to get really full again

Bottom line

Delta will be ending its seat blocking policy as of May 1, as we start to see widespread vaccination in the US. Huge kudos to Delta for how long it has kept this policy in place. Delta continues to march to the beat of its own drum (sometimes for better, sometimes for worse), and this is another example of that.

Frankly Delta’s seat blocking policy ended up lasting a bit longer than I had expected, so I can’t fault the airline one bit.

What do you make of Delta ending its seat blocking policy?

Conversations (19)
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  1. Suzie

    Just booked a flight in May. No middle seat blocking. Oh well, it was nice while it lasted. But will they continue to not have refreshment service, citing Covid?

  2. Milo

    One can ALWAYS block a middle seat. The problem is, very few are willing to pay for it, and there lies the problem. Profit margin for economy is not high enough to make it financially feasible to reduce 1/3 of the capacity on a continual basis.

  3. TM

    While I'm sad to see this end, I think it is time. I've loved not having anyone next to me for the last year and I would take an empty middle seat any day over a sugary soft drink or crappy cup of coffee, but there's just too many people returning to the skies for Delta to ignore. My last couple of flights have been substantially busier and just today I was looking at RNO/SMF-MSP...

    While I'm sad to see this end, I think it is time. I've loved not having anyone next to me for the last year and I would take an empty middle seat any day over a sugary soft drink or crappy cup of coffee, but there's just too many people returning to the skies for Delta to ignore. My last couple of flights have been substantially busier and just today I was looking at RNO/SMF-MSP for next week, and I'm seeing a lot of cabins showing as 'sold out'.

    Despite the pandemic raging on outside, I've become pretty comfortable with travel in the covid era. I'm really not looking forward to the return of crowded lounges, long lines, unattended children running up and down the hotel, etc...

  4. AlanD

    I agree with others that flying during the pandemic reinforced how much I hated the endless completely full flights pre-pandemic. For reasons of loving some space apart from others which has nothing to do with COVID, I'd love for carriers to make it easy to purchase 3 seats if 2 people are flying together. Simply charge the same fare for that 3rd seat + use an algorithm to add your average additional revenue from bags...

    I agree with others that flying during the pandemic reinforced how much I hated the endless completely full flights pre-pandemic. For reasons of loving some space apart from others which has nothing to do with COVID, I'd love for carriers to make it easy to purchase 3 seats if 2 people are flying together. Simply charge the same fare for that 3rd seat + use an algorithm to add your average additional revenue from bags etc. for a seat and sell it at that price. If 3 seats are available at $100 at time of booking and your average is $50 in ancillary revenue, sell the 3 seats to me for a total of $350. Why do airlines care if there's a butt in the seat if they're not losing net revenue?

  5. rich

    Ignoring the virus issue, I found the blocking of seats to be a huge plus. The main thing I value is personal space on a plane and it was so nice. I just completed a trip using Southwest outbound on a full flight and Delta on the return. What a difference.

    I sure would also pay a good 50% more for a blocked middle seat instead of having someone rubbing elbows with me. Instead I'll look at business seats.

  6. Jerry

    I actually prefer paying about 50% more for my ticket to leave the middle seat empty.

  7. Tim Dunn

    Delta was bound to reach this point. Their sellable capacity will increase up to 50% in revenue generating capability depending on the aircraft type.

    Michigan hospital officials are saying that there is a noticeable shift to younger people and, so far, death rates are much lower even though they are a hot zone for new infections. They say - as is obvious - that vaccines are working. They say they have yet to hospitalize anyone...

    Delta was bound to reach this point. Their sellable capacity will increase up to 50% in revenue generating capability depending on the aircraft type.

    Michigan hospital officials are saying that there is a noticeable shift to younger people and, so far, death rates are much lower even though they are a hot zone for new infections. They say - as is obvious - that vaccines are working. They say they have yet to hospitalize anyone that has had even one dose of any of the 3 vaccines. In another month, the US will have fully vaccinated up to 30-40 million more Americans.

  8. Josh

    @ Al - Delta has no intention of doing that. You are welcome to stay home while those of us who are vaccinated can fly with a mask and briefly pull it down for a sip or bite.

  9. Donato

    @Al
    I agree with your concern but Delta could not continue competing with other airlines while flying so many empty seats. They likely picked up few additional passengers based on their policy. Remember, AA decades ago tried having the most economy legroom, they had to backtrack when consumers cared more about fare than comfort.
    To be clear, I agree with your concern and will likely not traverse an airport, lounge or aircraft till...

    @Al
    I agree with your concern but Delta could not continue competing with other airlines while flying so many empty seats. They likely picked up few additional passengers based on their policy. Remember, AA decades ago tried having the most economy legroom, they had to backtrack when consumers cared more about fare than comfort.
    To be clear, I agree with your concern and will likely not traverse an airport, lounge or aircraft till after this summer. I would rather drive thousands of miles rather than travel under the current situation.

  10. Reaper

    Delta waited exactly the right amount of time to do exactly the right thing. They really can do no wrong. Ever.

    Am I doing it right, OMAAT Delta sycophants?

  11. Oke

    I enjoyed empty middle seat on recent flight to Hawaii. Its a bummer that they are ending it but I don’t think they had a choice. The positive is expected reduction in price the negative is return of folks like “Nige” sitting next to you when even 10ft distance is not far enough from them.

  12. derek

    Covid is dangerous. Only change is roughly 15% vaccinated.

    War is not over. Too early to remove gas masks and come out of the bomb shelter.

  13. Bobo

    Alaska is still blocking middle seats in their premium seats (free for elites) through May. I appreciate that and am booking accordingly.

  14. FNT Delta Diamond

    Delta should offer a comfort add-on that blocks the middle seat. Who wants to sit there? Nobody! Give me a choice to get extra space, especially on long-haul flights like other airlines do with sky couches and such.

  15. khatl

    Blocked middle seats + bottle of champagne and a meal = European business class

  16. JeffFromSD

    I specifically flew Delta more often during the pandemic because of middle seat blocking. It probably was costly for them in terms of revenue, but it definitely helped build brand loyalty for me.

  17. Al

    Delta wants to kill all of our grandparents by allowing us to sit a couple feet closer in an enclosed tube where we're taking our masks off anyway to eat and stuff but that doesn't matter because outrage!!! (The return to sanity is going to be a slow one. For some, it'll never happen.)

  18. Juan

    I had a feeling this was coming when Delta also announced a resumption of in-flight service a few weeks ago. For the last few months, you were essentially paying for space with Delta in exchange for fewer snacks. And if they were going to start filling up their seats, they had to match AA and UA in terms of in-flight service.

    Personally, I am surprised it lasted this long, but I am also a little...

    I had a feeling this was coming when Delta also announced a resumption of in-flight service a few weeks ago. For the last few months, you were essentially paying for space with Delta in exchange for fewer snacks. And if they were going to start filling up their seats, they had to match AA and UA in terms of in-flight service.

    Personally, I am surprised it lasted this long, but I am also a little disappointed we didn't see some sort of middle seat blocking for elites and/or in Comfort+ (I know Qantas did that pre-COVID if the flight wasn't full).

  19. Omar

    I actually do view this as a positive. Delta was my preferred airline before covid but since then the price is double any other airline on the routes that I fly and the reduced service also sucks so I have avoided them.

Featured Comments Load all 19 comments Most helpful comments ( as chosen by the OMAAT community ).

The comments on this page have not been provided, reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser, and it is not an advertiser's responsibility to ensure posts and/or questions are answered.

Suzie

Just booked a flight in May. No middle seat blocking. Oh well, it was nice while it lasted. But will they continue to not have refreshment service, citing Covid?

Milo

One can ALWAYS block a middle seat. The problem is, very few are willing to pay for it, and there lies the problem. Profit margin for economy is not high enough to make it financially feasible to reduce 1/3 of the capacity on a continual basis.

TM

While I'm sad to see this end, I think it is time. I've loved not having anyone next to me for the last year and I would take an empty middle seat any day over a sugary soft drink or crappy cup of coffee, but there's just too many people returning to the skies for Delta to ignore. My last couple of flights have been substantially busier and just today I was looking at RNO/SMF-MSP for next week, and I'm seeing a lot of cabins showing as 'sold out'. Despite the pandemic raging on outside, I've become pretty comfortable with travel in the covid era. I'm really not looking forward to the return of crowded lounges, long lines, unattended children running up and down the hotel, etc...

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