- Five US airlines are blocking middle seats or limiting capacity for the Thanksgiving holidays.
- Delta Air Lines, Alaska Airlines, Southwest Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, and JetBlue Airways have all committed to blocking seats through turkey day but not all will keep the policy much longer.
- After Thanksgiving, only two airlines have committed to blocking seats for the Christmas and New Year holidays.
US airlines are facing a crossroads this holiday season as to whether they should block middle seats or open them booking as a travel-hungry populace ponders a return to the skies to visit family, friends, and relatives.
With the start of the holiday season less than a month away, consumers are looking now to book flights for the Thanksgiving-New Year’s travel period. October saw airlines solidify their plans for turkey day and beyond with some announcing definitive ends to their seat blocking policies.
Coming off a third-quarter in which some airlines saw billion-dollar losses, opening the seats will allow for much-needed revenue during what is normal the busiest travel season of the year. October 18 saw the first day since March that the US had over one million daily passengers, indicating a willingness for the country to get back in the air.
Those airlines choosing not to extend their middle seat policies are pointing to new scientific findings that show limited signs of spread among passengers that wear masks and low transmission rates among some of the most frequent flyers, flight attendants. High-efficiency particulate air filters, or HEPA filters for short, are largely to thank as air is refreshed every few minutes.
Read More: Airline workers have lower rates of COVID-19 than the general population — and airline CEOs say it’s proof that flying is safe
Critics, however, are skeptical that the studies on which the airlines are basing their decisions, some of which were performed in partnership with United Airlines and Boeing, are reliable, as Business Insider’s David Slotnick reported. The studies, critics say, didn’t account for smaller narrow-body aircraft and passengers taking off their masks to eat and drink.
Here’s which airlines are keeping the dreaded middle seat blocked this Thanksgiving.
Delta Air Lines
Delta was the first airline to announce it would be blocking middle seats – and some aisle seats on planes without middle seats – into 2021 with the current policy extended until January 6, 2021. Groups of two sitting in a three-seat row will be assigned and aisle and window seat with the middle kept open while groups of three or more can have the entire row.
The policy won’t likely last forever, or even until the end of 2021. CEO Ed Bastian said that the airline expects to discontinue the policy by mid-2021 as demand increases and Delta hopes to breakeven on its daily operations.
Business Insider recently toured Delta’s operation at John F. Kennedy International Airport to