JetBlue will cap bookings through the holidays — without promising empty middle seats
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.
Airlines are preparing for a holiday season that’ll be unlike any other.
In pre-COVID times, the period between Thanksgiving and New Years has been one of the busiest for leisure travelers visiting family and friends.
In 2020, well, things will look different. Airlines aren’t exactly sure how many people are ready to take to the skies. In fact, the major U.S. carriers are promoting the comprehensiveness of their onboard and airport cleaning programs to help drum up confidence in flying. Plus, we’re beginning to see carriers incentivize bookings with limited-time promotions and fare sales.
Now, with the holiday season fast approaching, airlines are updating one component of their onboard safety campaigns: the promise to block middle seats on every flight.
The latest change comes from New York-based JetBlue. The carrier has quietly updated its seat-blocking policy for flights through the holiday season.
Stay up-to-date on airline and aviation news by signing up for our brand-new aviation newsletter.
Currently, JetBlue is blocking all middle seats through Oct. 15 on its Airbus A320 family of planes (and aisle seats on its smaller Embraer E190s).
But beginning Oct. 16 and running through at least Dec. 1 — the Tuesday after Thanksgiving — the carrier will be capping its jets at less than 70% of capacity.
That means an empty middle seat is no longer a guarantee. For families or friends traveling together, JetBlue will have some rows with all seats available for selection.
For example, if the carrier sells its 100-seater Embraer E190 to just under 70% capacity, that means there will be 69 passengers onboard. The plane is arranged in a 2-2 configuration, spread across 25 rows. If there aren’t enough parties traveling together in groups of two or more, then odds are you’ll be seated next to a stranger. Of course, the situation will vary depending on flight loads.
You’re also no longer guaranteed an empty adjacent seat in the carrier’s Mint business-class cabin. Currently, Mint is capped at ten of the 16 seats — all aisle seats are blocked for distancing. However, beginning Oct. 16, JetBlue will only block the two aisles in row 1 to promote space between customers and flight attendants.
Going forward, Mint can therefore be booked to 14 of the 16 available seats. So unless you’re traveling as a couple or can snag a solo seat in row 2 or 4 (or the windows in row 1), you’ll be seated next to a stranger.
If you’re not traveling as a group, JetBlue promises to continue to work “behind the scenes” to seat parties together and provide space between for those not traveling together. As such, your seat assignment may be modified by the airline before departure to ensure optimal distancing for everyone. Just note that due to an above-average number of no-shows, some seat assignments will likely change just minutes before departure.
According to a spokesperson, “in the rare instances where the seating isn’t working out, we’ll work through those on a case-by-case basis.”
But what happens after Dec. 1, as we approach the Christmas and New Year’s holidays?
Well, the carrier is promising the less than 70% cap through at least Dec. 1. According to a JetBlue spokesperson, “throughout the holidays, we’ll monitor demand and continue to limit capacity onboard” with the ultimate goal of “minimiz[ing] situations where a customer may be seated next to someone they don’t know.”
After Oct. 15, you should consider purchasing an extra seat if you want to guarantee additional space onboard JetBlue flights. The carrier makes the booking process easy. Simply add an additional adult to your booking and check “This is an empty seat” when you begin filling out the passenger details.
Tuesday’s policy change comes as JetBlue becomes one of the first major U.S. carriers to begin offering promotions for holiday bookings. Through Sept. 30, customers can receive $50 off per person on holiday flights or $300 off JetBlue Vacations bookings for travel from Nov. 19, 2020, to Jan. 5, 2021. Simply use promo code “HOLIDAYS” when booking at jetblue.com/promo.
JetBlue’s move to unblock every middle seat follows similar policy changes by its competitors.
In mid-September, Southwest announced that it will continue capping the capacity of its jets through Nov. 30. The Dallas-based airline hasn’t yet announced whether its policy will extend through the December holidays. Alaska Airlines is also limiting the number of travelers on its flights through Nov. 30.
Delta is blocking seats through Jan. 6. Like JetBlue, the Atlanta-based airline is raising its capacity cap for flights. On Oct. 1, the number of passengers allowed in coach jumps from 60% to 75%. Plus, the airline will book the Delta One business-class cabin on its wide-body jets to full capacity starting Oct. 1.
American Airlines and United Airlines notably are not blocking seats or capping bookings. Both say that other measures, from enhanced cleaning procedures to mandating all travelers wear masks, keep flyers safe from COVID-19. In a way, they’re right — blocking middle seats is likely more about making travelers comfortable to fly than protection against the virus.
Nonetheless, JetBlue just became the latest carrier to continue capping the capacity of its flights through the start of the holiday season. Just note that even though the carrier will try its best to keep middle seats blocked between strangers, it’s no longer a guarantee.
Featured photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy
Welcome to The Points Guy!
Earn 90,000 bonus miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new card in the first three months of card membership. Offer ends 11/10/2021.
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 and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer expires 11/10/2021.
- Earn up to 20,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) with Status Boost® per year. After you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, you can earn 10,000 MQMs two times per year, getting you closer to Medallion® Status. MQMs are used to determine Medallion® Status and are different than miles you earn toward flights.
- 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.
- Earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.
- 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