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Delta is filling middle seats to combat Easter Weekend flight cancellations

April 04, 2021
4 min read
Delta is filling middle seats to combat Easter Weekend flight cancellations
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Editor's Note

This piece has been updated with additional passenger compensation information. 

On the heels of a rocky Thanksgiving and Christmas in 2020, Delta proactively canceled more than 70 flights heading into Easter Sunday, unblocking middle seats to help offset the number of displaced passengers.

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Points, Miles & Martinis first reported the mass number of cancellations.

In a statement to TPG, Delta attributed the cancellations to staffing hurdles: "Delta teams have been working through various factors, including staffing, large numbers of employee vaccinations and pilots returning to active status. We apologize to our customers for the inconvenience and the majority have been rebooked for the same travel day.”

While proactive cancellations during busy travel periods aren't a rare occurrence, it's important to note that comparatively United and American Airlines each reported fewer than six canceled flights at the start of the day.

Over a million customers have flown on Delta in the past few days — the highest number of passengers since before the pandemic.

(Photo by Chris Dong/The Points Guy)

Delta temporarily lifting middle seat caps

Even more disappointing to see is Delta's reaction to this set of cancellations.

In order to make up for the canceled flights, the airline opened up capacity — including middle seats — on Sunday and Monday flights.

Passengers have already taken to social media to criticize the airline's decision to unblock middle seats over the holiday weekend.

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This comes on the heels of Delta's recent announcement that middle seats would remain blocked until May 1, 2021.

Many passengers have booked flights with Delta over other U.S. airlines specifically because of its middle-seat blocking policy. While it's a tough situation when you're trying to get passengers from canceled flights rebooked to their destinations quickly and efficiently, unblocking middle seats after booking is a blow to the consumer trust that Delta has built.

One passenger who TPG spoke with via Twitter was offered 2,500 SkyMiles "as a gesture of goodwill" after he took to the social media platform to voice his frustrations. "Honestly, compensation is the furthest thing from my mind right now. My health and safety are #1," he said, adding that he had Diamond status before the pandemic.

The passenger had no idea about the change in seat capacity until after he boarded the full flight. "[My seat neighbor and I] looked at each other and said, 'I’m sorry, but you must have the wrong seat...?' Then the flight attendant informed us."

Delta is currently the only airline with a middle seat blocking policy — with the exception of Alaska Airlines blocking select middle seats in its extra-legroom Premium Class (but not first-class or coach) through the end of May.

Related: Delta, the last holdout, will start selling flights to 100% on May 1

bottom line

Delta has been known as one of the most well-run airlines in the U.S. There have been stretches of more than a month at a time without a mainline cancellation, and the airline has made a name for itself as one of the most reliable U.S.-based airlines.

Related: Best US airlines of 2020: Who’s doing it right in the COVID era

But could this be changing?

This set of mass cancellations is not Delta's first within the past six months. As mentioned above, we saw mass cancellations over Thanksgiving and Christmas last year — though neither of those holidays resulted in the airline unblocking middle seats.

This is the third holiday in the past six months where Delta has hit major roadblocks, which has undoubtedly made a dent in the airline's reputation for reliability. But as the industry as a whole begins its road to recovery from COVID-19, we'll hopefully see flight operations return to normal and Delta's streak for no mainline cancelations return.

Featured image by Delta Air Line jet at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL) March 26, 2021 (Photo by Clint Henderson:The Points Guy)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

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  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

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  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
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  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
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  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023