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Delta extends first-class seat blocking through the holidays

The Points Guy logo The Points Guy 10/4/2020 Zach Griff
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Every major U.S. carrier has launched an anti-coronavirus health and wellness campaign.

Though the details (slightly) differ by airline, Delta’s done a comprehensive job of ensuring passenger safety. Like its competitors, the airline has implemented strict mask requirements and enhanced cleaning procedures. But, the Atlanta-based carrier has done even more to modify the end-to-end travel journey, including installing hand sanitizer stations outside lavatories and rolling out antimicrobial security bins.

On April 13, Delta began blocking middle seats to maximize onboard distancing. The carrier has extended the duration of its seat-blocking policy multiple times throughout the pandemic, and as of August promised more space for travelers through Jan. 6, 2021 — though the capacity cap increased to 75% (from 60%) — notably including the Thanksgiving and December holidays. The capacity change allows groups of three travelers or more to reserve seats together, even if it includes the middle.

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While the August announcement was welcome news for coach flyers, the airline only promised to cap first class (in a 2-2 configuration) at half capacity through at least Oct. 31.

a blue car: Delta domestic first class (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy) © The Points Guy Delta domestic first class (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

Well, there’s good news for those paying for the fancy recliners. The carrier will indeed continue blocking first-class seats through at least Jan. 6. This extension was first spotted on Delta.com and was later confirmed to TPG by a carrier spokesperson.

Like coach, most adjacent first-class seats will be blocked, on both domestic and international flights operated by a narrowbody plane. However, groups of two may select seats together. Note that Delta won’t sell the cabin to 100% even if there are exclusively even-numbered parties booked in first. If you are flying solo in first class, the adjacent seat will remain empty.

a row of parked cars: Delta One of the Boeing 757 (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy) © The Points Guy Delta One of the Boeing 757 (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

This extended seat-blocking policy also applies to the Delta One cabin on the carrier’s single-aisle Boeing 757s. There are no longer capacity limitations on the Delta One cabin on widebody jets, regardless of whether the plane is flying domestically or internationally. That’s because these cabins are “designed with more space and privacy built-in,” according to a spokesperson.


Video: FAA chief not ready to re-approve Boeing 737 Max (Reuters - US Video Online)

Related: Delta will cap seats into 2021 in bid to reassure flyers

Delta will likewise continue blocking first-class seats on regional jets that feature a 1-2 configuration. With the newly extended policy, however, a solo passenger could theoretically be sitting right across the aisle from a couple. Of course, this possibility is unlikely since it’d require one of the parties to purposely choose a seat across from another party.

Airlines initially rolled out passenger caps and blocked middle seats under the auspices of social distancing onboard flights. But now, blocking seats is more about making travelers feel comfortable.

a car parked in a parking lot: Solo first-class passengers won’t have a neighbor through Jan. 6, 2021 (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy) © The Points Guy Solo first-class passengers won’t have a neighbor through Jan. 6, 2021 (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

When the carrier first announced the holiday season extensions in August, Bill Lentsch, chief customer experience officer at Delta, said in a statement, “We believe that taking care of our customers and employees and restoring confidence in the safety of air travel is more important right now than filling up every seat on a plane.”

Related: Which US airlines are blocking middle seats?

Delta is one of just five U.S. carriers, including Alaska Airlines, Hawaiian, JetBlue Airways and Southwest Airlines, capping the number of flyers onboard their planes during the coronavirus pandemic. Alaska is blocking seats through Nov. 30, JetBlue through Jan. 5 and Southwest through Nov. 30. Hawaiian hasn’t specified an expiration date for its seat-blocking policy.

Either way, Delta’s premium flyers should rest assured: the carrier will indeed be blocking domestic first-class seats through the holidays.

Featured image by Zach Griff/The Points Guy. Additional reporting by Ned Russell. 

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