Delta airlines is committed to providing passengers with peace of mind when it comes to health and safety practices, by deciding to extend its middle seat blocking policy to April 30th, 2021.
The practice of blocking middle seats on aircrafts was popularized at the height of the pandemic, in a bid to maintain social distancing on-board.
Subsequently, many U.S. airlines adopted the practice for a definitive period, though it has since been abandoned by all, save Delta.
Southwest, JetBlue and Hawaiian’s middle-seat policies expired in December, while Alaska’s came to an end last month.
Accordingly, Delta is the only US airline to continue the policy, now set to stay in effect for all flights departing through April 30th.
The concept of reducing capacity on flights is a hazardous one, granted the financial and economic setbacks the industry has already faced due to the pandemic.
Delta’s decision to maintain this policy despite the drawbacks are indicative of their commitment to customers when it comes to giving them peace of mind, and a little extra comfort.
Speaking on the extension of the policy, Delta’s Chief Customer Experience Officer, Bill Lentsch stated:
“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. 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 – that will always be Delta’s priority.”
Middle Seat Policy Disputed in Industry
While Delta remains the single U.S. airline to continue to advocate some degree of social distancing on planes, the feeling is not mutual for much of the industry.
In July, when the policy was gaining traction within the industry, a CNBC article reported that airline executives argued that current measures already in place are enough to maintain safety without the requirement of reducing capacity.
In this regard, American Airlines released the following statement:
“We are unwavering in our commitment to the safety and well-being of our customers and team members. We have multiple layers of protection in place for those who fly with us, including required face coverings, enhanced cleaning procedures, and a pre-flight COVID-19 symptom checklist — and we’re providing additional flexibility for customers to change their travel plans, as well.”
Other executives argued the effectiveness of the policy of blocking middle seats in maintaining social distancing.
United Airlines Chief Communications Officer, Josh Earnest stated:
“When you’re onboard the aircraft, if you’re sitting in the aisle, and the middle seat is empty, the person across the aisle is within 6 feet from you, the person at the window is within 6 feet of you, the people in the row in front of you are within 6 feet of you, the people in the row behind you are within 6 feet of you.”
Earnest went on to say that airlines like Delta implementing the policy are doing so for vested interests rather than the safety of passengers, saying:
“When it comes to blocking middle seats, that’s a PR strategy, that’s not a safety strategy.”
On the contrary, it can be considered that airlines refusing to reduce capacity are not willing to sacrifice the sales and revenues of additional seats.
Ultimately, it is up to the traveler to decide how important the policy is, and whether it is enough for them to switch airlines.
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