JetBlue extends seat-blocking policy one last time, covering the December holidays
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.
At the outset of the pandemic, airlines were quick to introduce additional safety measures to combat the spread of the coronavirus.
Initiatives included mandatory face-covering policies, increased frequency of cleanings, limiting the inflight service offerings and more. Some airlines, however, took the safety campaigns one step further by blocking middle seats.
This way, customers would be further spaced from others. At the height of the pandemic with demand for travel so low, blocked middle seats didn’t necessarily displace paying passengers. But now, with the holidays approaching — and as we learn more about the what’s thought to be a low risk of virus transmission on aircraft — carriers are slowly starting to walk back from the promise of empty middle seats.
The latest carrier to do so is JetBlue.
The New York-based airline will return to selling 100% of seats on its aircraft starting on Jan. 8, 2021, JetBlue said in a Thursday memo to employees that was viewed by TPG. Until then, JetBlue will continue blocking just a subset of seats, as follows:
- Through Dec. 1, 2020: Onboard capacity is capped at 70%. Empty middle seats aren’t guaranteed, as previously reported.
- From Dec. 2, 2020 to Jan. 7, 2021: Onboard capacity is capped at 85%. No specific seats will be blocked.
- Jan. 8, 2021 and onwards: No capacity caps.
In September, JetBlue announced that it would increase the capacity cap to 70% through Dec. 1, but stopped short of offering a specific numerical cap for the December holiday season. With Thursday’s update, flyers can be assured that Christmas and New Years’ holiday flights won’t be more than 85% full.
However, the carrier won’t be blocking any specific seats. That means families and friends traveling together can assign any seat on the plane when booking. Instead, the airline won’t take reservations for more than 85% of the available seats on a particular aircraft.
For instance, on the carrier’s 100-seat Embraer E190, 85 tickets will be sold. Passengers can choose where they want to sit, without any seats blocked for distancing. Theoretically, you could end up with 15 empty seats in the last four rows of the plane.
Through Oct. 15, JetBlue blocked all the aisles in its Mint business-class cabin. From Oct. 16 to Nov. 8, the carrier reduced that cap to just the two aisles in row 1 to promote space between customers and flight attendants. Since Nov. 8, all 16 Mint seats have been available for sale.
JetBlue is one of the last remaining major U.S. carriers to announce when its passenger load cap will end. Both Alaska and Delta plan to bid farewell to blocked seats on Jan. 7, 2021. Southwest, on the other hand, will fill planes to capacity beginning Dec. 1, 2020. This leaves Hawaiian as the only airline to block middle seats without a set expiration date.
Filling planes to 100% comes as there’s increased scientific research as to the safety of the aircraft cabin. JetBlue touts the recent Harvard and Department of Defense studies as proof that “the air in our cabins [is] as safe or safer than the air in your own home or in a hospital operating room.”
While JetBlue will continue its other anti-coronavirus measures, some flyers will undoubtedly want to maximize personal space. Personally, I’ve flown ten domestic flights since the pandemic and had an empty middle seat on all of them — even on airlines that weren’t capping capacity.
With the holidays approaching and middle-seat blocking ending, be sure to check out my tips to scoring an empty middle seat.
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