Delta is officially back to selling flights at 100% capacity
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.
Roughly one year later, and Delta’s seat-blocking policy has come to an end.
The Atlanta-based carrier confirmed that it’ll once again resume selling its flights to 100% capacity beginning on May 1, ending its year-long middle-seat block.
In recent months, Delta has extended the passenger-friendly policy in month-long increments. Now, armed with studies that suggest the risk of inflight transmission is low and combined with the rapidly growing vaccination rates, the airline believes that it’s time to end the seat block.
Want more airline-specific news? Sign up for TPG’s free new biweekly Aviation newsletter!
“The relationships we’ve built, together with the knowledge that nearly 65 percent of those who flew Delta in 2019 anticipate having at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine by May 1, are what’s giving us the assurance to offer customers the ability to choose any seat on our aircraft, while also introducing new services, products and rewards to support the journey,” Delta CEO Ed Bastian said in a statement.
Delta will become the second to last airline to stop blocking middle seats.
Alaska will end blocking select middle seats in its extra-legroom Premium Class on May 31. Earlier in the pandemic, Hawaiian, JetBlue and Southwest also capped capacity, but those policies were scrapped by mid-January.
Delta says it kept its policy around for additional passenger comfort. Leaving the middle seat empty was intended to remove anxiety about packed planes as a reason travelers might put off returning to the skies.
Now, with more travelers taking to the skies, the seat cap could have caused Delta to lose out on additional revenue. Just take a look at the data.
American Airlines, which is selling planes to 100% capacity, recently said in an SEC filing that its seven-day moving average of net bookings is approximately 90% of the level experienced in 2019, with a domestic load factor of approximately 80% during that same period.
Well over one million travelers are passing through TSA checkpoints each day, and flights — especially to outdoor-friendly destinations — are going out full. Assuming infection rates remain low and the pace of vaccine distribution continues, experts are predicting a meaningful rebound in travel this summer.
With demand outstripping supply, Delta would lose a large chunk of revenue from those unsold seats unless it raised fares accordingly. But it’s not so easy. The current recovery is being led by leisure travelers – a typically price-sensitive group that may balk at higher fares, even with a blocked middle seat.
Going forward, flyers can select any seat during the purchase process, and travelers should expect many flights to approach 100% capacity as the ongoing travel rebound continues.
Those who’d like to purchase a second seat for added space can still do so. You can pay cash or redeem SkyMiles for the second seat, though SkyMiles rules are written to prohibit earning miles on “tickets purchased to carry excess baggage such as musical instruments and pets or to provide extra space for the primary passenger.”
Since Delta basic economy tickets don’t come with advance seat assignments, you’ll want to avoid that type of fare if you are booking two adjacent seats to have some extra space.
“We take great pride in the trust we’ve built with customers by listening and delivering on what they said was most important, and that is the approach you can continue to expect,” said Bastian.
Featured photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy
Welcome to The Points Guy!
Earn 90,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases within the first three months of card membership. Plus, earn a $200 statement credit after your first Delta purchase within the first three months. Offer ends 7/28/21.
With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.
- Limited Time Offer: Earn 90,000 Bonus Miles after spending $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months and a $200 statement credit after you make a Delta purchase with your new Card within your first 3 months. Offer expires 7/28/2021.
- Limited Time Offer: Plus, get a 0% intro APR on purchases for 12 months from the date of account opening, then a variable 15.74%-24.74%. Offer expires 7/28/2021.
- Accelerate your path to Medallion Status, with Status Boost®. Plus, in 2021 you can earn even more bonus Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) to help you reach Medallion Status.
- Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
- Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery and at U.S. supermarkets.
- Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. *Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $75 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
- Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
- Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®.
- Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
- No Foreign Transaction Fees.
- $250 Annual Fee.
- Terms Apply.
- See Rates & Fees