Delta Air Lines may be blocking middle seats and limiting capacity onboard aircraft through September 30th. The airline has announced that, through June 30th, the airline will restrict capacity in First Class at 50% and block middle seats in all other classes. However, this move may now have been extended through the end of the summer.
Delta could be extending social distancing measures
Data reviewed by Simple Flying indicates that Delta may be extending these social distancing measures through the end of the summer. For example, the seat map for a September 30th flight continues to show blocked middle seats in the Main Cabin and Comfort+ sections.
Meanwhile, long-haul international flights are also showing blocked middle seats in the Premium Select section.
On flights from October 1st, however, Delta is showing no blocked middle seats in any cabin class for short-haul domestic and long-haul international flights.
Other data reviewed by Simple Flying also shows that Delta is blocking capacity in select cabin classes. Some flights in August, for example, are showing as sold-out in Delta One online while the cabin remains approximately half empty. The same is true for Premium Select on the same flight.
In Delta One and First Class, Delta does not have middle seats to block out. Instead, it is limiting capacity and spacing out passengers. Delta One on all widebody aircraft is in a 1-2-1 configuration meaning no middle seats and more privacy. Meanwhile, First Class is in 2-2 layout on all narrowbody mainline jets. The exception to this, however, is a subset of the 757 fleet that is configured with Delta One lie-flat seats. Up front, that is in a 2-2 configuration.
While First Class and Delta One are capped at 50%, Main Cabin, Comfort+ and Premium Select cabins are booked full at about 60% true capacity.
Delta adds additional capacity to support social distancing
Delta stands out from other major US airlines by embracing social distancing. Even though this means that no flight will go out truly full, Delta’s CEO believes that this will be worth it for the airline as passengers seek the additional comfort and space that Delta will provide.
Delta does have planes that it can use to add capacity and support social distancing. This would also be a way to keep more flight attendants and pilots flying.
Will this pay off for Delta?
If Delta is making this move, it could go one of two ways. The IATA head has already stated that blocking middle seats will lead to an increase in fares. Meanwhile, Congressman DeFazio of Oregon has urged airlines to maintain empty seats to space out passengers onboard aircraft. So, there is no real consensus between some governing officials and industry professionals.
On the one hand, Delta could be going both ways and increasing fares slightly while guaranteeing middle seats. Or else, cargo could be a significant source of revenue making up for the blocked seats onboard planes.
At the end of the day, passengers decide whether or not they will fly. If Delta does not see an increase in bookings while airlines like United and American (which do not appear to be enacting strict social distancing measures through the fall) do, then the airline could rollback those policies and lower fares to sell more seats and remain competitive.
Simple Flying reached out to Delta. However, the airline did not respond before publication. This article will be amended as needed.
Do you think Delta should extend social distancing measures through September? Would you be willing to pay more to have empty middle seats and fewer passengers in each cabin class? Let us know in the comments!