Delta Airlines committed on Monday to continue to limit capacity on its flights and block middle seats through the end of April.
The airline began seat blocking and reducing the number of passengers on its flights last spring near the start of the coronavirus pandemic. Most airlines instituted similar policies, but Delta remains the only major U.S. carrier to continue blocking middle seats.
“We want our customers to have complete confidence when traveling with Delta, and they continue to tell us that more space provides more peace of mind,” Bill Lentsch, chief customer experience officer, said in a statement.
The seat blocking policy applies when passengers are flying alone or with one other person. Parties of three or more can continue selecting seats together.
On flights without any middle seats, Delta will block the selection of one aisle of seats.
Delta has also changed its boarding procedures during the pandemic, now boarding by row starting with the back of the plane first. This limits potential contact between passengers working their way past others already seated.
“We’ll continue to reassess seat blocking in relation to case transmission and vaccination rates while bringing back products and services in ways that instill trust in the health and safety of everyone on board,” Lentsch said. “That will always be Delta’s priority.”
Delta has also taken other steps during this time, including:
- Creating a digital concierge to manage booking, document verification, and test scheduling for international flyers on both the airline’s website and mobile app.
- Adding rapid testing centers at airports in Minneapolis and Detroit. The airline already has testing facilities in Seattle, Atlanta, Boston, and New York (JFK).
- Adding what Delta calls a team of clean ambassadors to keep its ticketing and boarding gates safe and sanitized at 55 airports.
Airlines for America, a trade association representing the travel industry, said these measures and others taken by carriers during the past year have made flying safe.
It points to a recent study by faculty at Harvard University that says airplanes are as safe or safer than other routine activities, such as going to the grocery store.
Joseph Allen, an assistant professor for exposure science at Harvard, says the ventilation systems in airplanes are the key to safe flying.
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