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Delta Extends Guarantee of Empty Middle Seat Through September

Bloomberg logoBloomberg 6/3/2020 Mary Schlangenstein
a bag of luggage: Passenger seats on the Delta Air Lines plane. © Bloomberg Passenger seats on the Delta Air Lines plane.

(Bloomberg) -- Delta Air Lines Inc. will block middle seats on all its aircraft through Sept. 30, extending the policy for three months to soothe passenger fears about contracting the coronavirus.

The carrier will switch to larger planes or add flights on high-demand routes that approach seating limits, Delta said in a statement Wednesday. The Atlanta-based carrier previously guaranteed empty middle seats through June 30.

U.S. airlines slashed flights earlier this quarter as demand nearly disappeared because of the coronavirus pandemic and government restrictions on travel. Carriers have resumed some flights as demand has begun inching up. Nearly 268,000 travelers passed through U.S. security checkpoints Tuesday, compared with 2.25 million on the equivalent day a year earlier.

Delta and JetBlue Airways Corp. are the only U.S. carriers to guarantee empty middle seats. Southwest Airlines Co. has pledged to book flights at no more than two-thirds full, while American Airlines Group Inc. is limiting the number of customers on each flight.

United Airlines Holdings Inc. said it will let passengers change seats to maintain social distancing, when possible. The carrier attempts to notify passengers on planes that approach capacity so they can rebook. American Airlines has similar policies in place.

All major airlines have stepped up cleaning at airport gates and on planes to help convince consumers that it’s safe to return to flying.

Delta previously capped seating at 50% in first class and at 60% in economy, premium economy and Delta Premium Select on international flights. The airline will continue blocking some aisle seats in planes with two-by-two seating.

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