Report: Delta will add flights to keep planes from filling up through July

May 19, 2020

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Delta has been among the U.S. airlines leading the way when it comes to making customers feel safe and appreciated during the coronavirus pandemic, taking extraordinary measures to make us feel comfortable flying again.

In addition to being the first U.S. carrier to extend elite status benefits, Delta has been far more flexible about cancellations than many of its peers, and announced that it would be blocking middle seats for sale beginning some six weeks ago.

Now, according to information provided to Reuters, Delta will extend its current reduced-seating policy through July, at a minimum, and will also begin adding flights to the schedule to meet demand. The Reuters report cited unnamed “people familiar with the matter,” and Delta declined to confirm the report.

But it’s that latter detail about adding flights is especially interesting. It means Delta will effectively consider a flight to be “sold-out” once bookings reach 60% of available seats, and will add new flights in order to continue selling tickets on any given route instead of selling the remaining unoccupied seats on the original flight. Employing that extra flexibility, Delta will allow more passengers to travel while still guaranteeing extra space onboard.

Speaking during the Wolfe Transportation & Industrials Conference on Tuesday, Delta CFO Paul Jacobson acknowledged the move, stating that the airline “will add about 100 flights in June.”

United Airlines, meanwhile, has confirmed that it’s been “upgauging” flights to meet demand where possible — swapping in a larger plane to add more capacity and enabling some onboard distancing, on roughly 35-40 flights per day.

We reached out to Delta regarding an extension of the 60% cap through July, but the airline isn’t yet able to confirm the move. A spokesperson told TPG: “We announced a policy on seating capacity through June 30. Nothing has been decided beyond that but we are continuing to monitor the situation and make adjustments as necessary.”

Alaska Airlines and Southwest are continuing to cap ticket sales, as well. Currently, Alaska has confirmed that first-class ticket sales are capped at 50%, all middle seats on large aircraft and all aisle seats on smaller aircraft are blocked for sale through June 30. Meanwhile, Southwest has reduced available seats by at least 20%, currently through June 5.

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