JetBlue Extends & Scales Back Seat Blocking Policy

Filed Under: JetBlue

JetBlue has once again extended its seat blocking policy for several additional weeks. However, in the process the airline is also increasing how many seats it will sell on each flight. Let’s talk about how that’s being done.

What is JetBlue’s seat blocking policy?

JetBlue has just extended the validity of its seat blocking policy from October 15 to December 1, 2020. However, with this extension, the airline will stop being as generous with how it blocks seats.

You can see the change in direction based on how JetBlue is marketing this. Prior to today’s extension, here’s how JetBlue marketed its blocking of seats:

The tone is very different today — rather than promising to block middle seats, the airline is marketing that it’s “giving you your space,” and that it will “continue to limit the number of travelers per flight and block seats — selling less than 70% — through at least 12/1.”

So what exactly is changing here?

JetBlue’s seat blocking through October 15

With JetBlue’s seat blocking policy for flights through October 15, 2020:

  • Middle seats are blocked on all Airbus A320 & A321 aircraft (where the configuration is 3-3)
  • Aisle seats are blocked on all Embraer 190 aircraft (where the configuration is 2-2)
  • Passengers traveling together are allowed to sit together in seats that would otherwise be blocked

In other words, the airline is able to sell more than 50% of seats on Embraer aircraft and more than 67% of seats on Airbus aircraft because some passengers are traveling together. So the guarantee has been that you won’t sit next to a stranger, rather than that no one will be in middle seats.

JetBlue’s seat blocking as of October 16

With JetBlue’s seat blocking policy for flights as of October 16, 2020:

  • The airline is promising to sell flights less than 70% full
  • It doesn’t sound like JetBlue is intending to seat strangers next to one another, but rather it sounds like the airline is going off data and noticing that lots of people are traveling together, and therefore are comfortable sitting together
  • Therefore the airline will potentially move around passengers to ensure the optimal balance between seating those traveling together next to one another, and seating strangers apart

JetBlue’s “Safety from the Ground Up” program

Seat blocking is only one of JetBlue’s many measures to keep passengers and employees safe, with what the airline calls the “Safety from the Ground Up” program.

JetBlue notes the following initiatives it’s taking to keep 23,000 crew members safe:

  • Conducting temperature checks for pilots and flight attendants
  • Providing paid sick leave and additional time off programs so employees do not come to work sick
  • Following company-wide protocols for reporting cases of the coronavirus, notifications, and return to work clearance
  • Providing disinfectant kits for pilot use on the flight deck
  • Requiring face coverings for all employees while boarding, in flight, and when physical distancing cannot be maintained

Furthermore, JetBlue has implemented the following policies to ensure social distancing:

  • Requiring face coverings for all customers during check-in, boarding, and inflight
  • Blocking middle seats on larger aircraft and aisle seats on smaller aircraft for those not traveling together
  • Providing the most space between each row of seats in economy of any US airline and spacious seating on all aircraft
  • Providing touchless check-in and boarding experiences using the JetBlue mobile app and self-boarding gates for many flights
  • Implementing a back-to-front boarding process for most passengers to minimize passing in the aisle
  • Adjusting on board service including pre-sealed snack and beverage bags in economy, and pre-packaged fresh meals in Mint
  • Using personal devices as remotes for seatback screens on select planes

Bottom line

JetBlue has extended its seat blocking policy from October 15 to December 1. The airline is increasing the cap on how many seats it will sell per flight. It sounds like JetBlue still intends to not seat strangers next to one another, but rather is just taking advantage of the fact that lots of people are traveling as parties of two or more right now.

JetBlue isn’t the only US airline to be blocking seats, as Alaska, Delta, and Southwest are all blocking seats as well.

It goes without saying that even with seat blocking you’re not getting a full six feet of distance between people. However, some distance is still better than no distance. If you care about having an empty seat next to you, pick your airline wisely. If I were flying I’d go out of my way to select an airline that’s blocking seats.

What do you make of JetBlue’s seat blocking policy?

Comments
  1. I aplaude JetBlue for continuing these efforts, 70% of a flight full is far better than 100% as American and United do.

    Well done Jetblue

  2. I have no problem with airlines selling up to 100% bc based on the data (meaning the months of history we have with UA and AA), clearly planes are not significant vectors of virus spread. Let’s relax a little and think about the practical reality.

  3. At some near point airlines are going to be forced to:

    1. Raise fares significantly
    2. Go back to near or at 100% capacity
    3. Ask for and receive more and endless government bailouts

    Sorry there’s no free lunch here. Personally if airlines said we are raising fares by an average of 50% and will no longer seat flyers in a middle seat other than family members I’d probably be happy. But I think I’d be in the minority.

  4. @George – The airlines are getting at least some tenuous relief by having fuel costs so low right now. Jet fuel costs about 50% less than it did at this point last year. Fuel costs are somewhere around 30% the cost of a typical flight (prior to the pandemic). That also makes it slightly easier to justify flying a less-than-full flight. But if oil prices rise again, before consumers are ready fly again (or with increased social pressure not to fly, something I think we’re all discounting) or if the public successfully demands more empty seats, it will obviously only compound the disaster.

  5. “It goes without saying that even with seat blocking you’re not getting a full six feet of distance between people. However, some distance is still better than no distance. If you care about having an empty seat next to you, pick your airline wisely. If I were flying I’d go out of my way to select an airline that’s blocking seats.”

    I agree with @Lucky and disagree with the naysayers in the previous comments. And I hate it when people tell me to relax on issues that potentially have life or death implications.

  6. Anyone that wants airlines to block middle seats either is amendable to paying higher fares or supports a continual taxpayer bailout of the airline industry because the math doesn’t work. What I get tired of is people that want middle seats blocked and somehow think airlines can continue to provide cheap fares and stay in business.

    This all is nothing more than “health theater” designed to fool the dumb down public. No different from the TSA clown show.

  7. Don’t forget that it’s easy to book an extra seat for yourself as a traveler online with JetBlue – just choose 2 adults (not 1) in your search, and when you get to the check-out screen, there is a box to tick for “extra seat for traveler 1” (yourself). This can be done with points or paid tickets.

  8. Whatever story Jet Blue is spinning, it’s not what I experienced on a recent Jet Blue flight. The flight appeared to be at about 90% capacity. Strangers were seated next to one another. Moreover, when I reached out to talk to someone about this policy, they ignored by message.

  9. This is completely not true. I am on a jet blue flight right now. hpn-fll. I am traveling alone and sandwiched between two strangers in row 16. The rows in front of and behind me are completely full (strangers).

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