American Will Sell Flights To Full Capacity, Will You Stick With Airlines Promising An Empty Middle Seat?

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Update, 6/26: American will match United’s policy of selling flights to 100% capacity as of July 1st. Passengers will be allowed to switch flights if they don’t want to fly on a full flight.

Update, 6/17: Southwest has matched Delta’s empty middle seat promise through September 30th, JetBlue and Hawaiian are now blocking middle seats through July 31st.


Originally posted on 6/3:

Delta announced that they will continue to block middle seats through September 30th.

They accomplish that by selling just 60% of the economy seats, 50% of first class seats, and 75% of Delta One business class seats.

Delta also plans to add flights or switch to larger planes on routes that are filling up.

I’d expect face masks to be required for at least that period of time as well.

JetBlue’s empty middle seat (or empty aisle seat on E190s) promise currently runs through July 31st and Southwest’s empty middle seat promise now runs through September 30th.

If you are traveling with family you can call the airline to sit in a middle seat, but I’d recommend just booking the aisle and window and enjoy the extra space.

Meanwhile American and United are making no such commitments. They are blocking middle seats on empty flights, but will happily and sell them to fill a flight. United says they will contact passengers on flights that are more than 70% full and allow them to change to another flight. You can always buy an extra seat if you want to guarantee an empty seat next to you by making the first name of the ticket EXTRASEAT with your last name. You’ll even get double your baggage allowance.

Airlines are in a catch-22 situation here. They need to sell about 80% of the seats on a plane to turn a profit, but people won’t fly and will make noise on social media if they don’t feel safe due to a full flight:

 

Practically speaking, it’s impossible to truly social distance on a plane. Even with a blocked middle seat, you will be less than 6 feet away from people all around you. But it does make a physiological difference and Delta, JetBlue, and Southwest are betting that you will reward them for their empty middle seat promises.

Those airlines are also likely hoping to get lasting goodwill from passengers remembering that they tried to keep them safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Will you specifically buy a ticket from an airline promising an empty middle seat?

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HT: mochjas, via DDF

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47 Comments On "American Will Sell Flights To Full Capacity, Will You Stick With Airlines Promising An Empty Middle Seat?"

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cook

Yes if it’s otherwise an even deal (price factor, route and schedule)
It’s always more convenient to have extra elbow space. Safety wise? The exposure is inevitable. Blocking middle seats doesn’t prevent exposure altogether; it ensures exposure isn’t prolonged perhaps. My take. (especially June and onward)

More bang for your buck

If the plane is a 3-3, and you buy the window and the middle for your family member, they’re still going to have to block that 3rd seat in the row…

CtownBin

Maybe so, but maybe it falls through the system because only middle seats are getting blocked. But either way, why not just book the aisle and window? That’s the wise thing to do even without COVID (as you can always change into a middle seat should someone get the seat between you), now it’s a no-brainer since that middle seat is guaranteed to stay empty.

More bang for your buck

But if the middle seat cost is significantly cheaper than the aisle/window…

Yitz

Never heard of such a thing

CB

In my humble opinion, Airlines have been toying with promising more space and less space for decades. At the end of the day, up until covid-19, the consumer always gravitated to the lowest fare regardless of advertised enhancements, extra space Etc.
Notwithstanding the above, it might be that covid-19 concerns are different and consumers will respond to this idea. I I would not bet my life or bet my career pushing this idea.
I personally am not ready to board an aircraft yet. I travel quite a bit, I have been on aircraft where the air was not circulating during a taxi because the pilot was not expecting a long 48 minute taxi and having the air conditioning on would necessitate going back for more fuel. By the way thank you Delta for that miserable experience. The fact that Boeing and Airbus announced a joint project to look into the safety concerns regarding covid-19 on an aircraft, this indicates that Boeing and Airbus are not confident that all the information is known yet.

M

Does the middle seat policy also apply to international flights? Also Do you recommend booking delta from JFK to tlv end of June?

jack

Is Delta still flying the Airbus A330 to TLV (2-4-2); Does that mean if you get the a 2 you automatically get an empty next to you?

Yehudis

I booked TLV-JFK for mid June. Seat map had 2-4-2 with 1-2-1 blocked. Safe travels. Status upgrades issued only at the gate.

iahphx

I think this is a bad move on Delta’s part. There is zero scientific evidence that blocking the middle seat on an airplane improves anyone’s safety. It’s a psychological move catering to irrational fear. Why does an airline want to do that? It’s either safe to fly a fully loaded 737 or it’s not. And if it’s not safe, no one should be flying.

...

Dan what if it’s a 2-4-2 config like on the a330 to Israel? Will the 2 have one empty?

if

DAN, Would you fly now?

Guy in MA

eh. COVID’s not a thing anymore. That’s sooo April.

Mimi

For you

Jake

I’m on a flight from Mia to ewr and the flight is sold out (you can’t buy a ticket now) however all middle seats are blocked out. So they do have this policy, I guess not advertised.

Gavin

No. I don’t care.

This whole thing is fake and overexposed.

The death rate is .025 less than flu as per new CDC info

It hit hard and fast because it was new. It’s over. Fear mongering is done.

Mark

There is no such CDC info. Completely made up.

Gavin
Mark

I repeat, there is no such CDC info. You obviously have no idea how to read the model compared to the flu model (which you did not post)

Gavin

You’re lying through your teeth.

Read it.

Ploiny

I guess this post didn’t age well. Aside from the cdc not saying what Gavin is claiming, the cdc is now confirming record numbers of new cases daily. So much for “fear mongering is over“ I guess. I would also like to point out that Florida is now accounting for nearly 25% of new cases (as per yesterday’s official data). Can’t help but wonder if that means the hope that the virus will not spread as much during the hotter months is now being Re-evaluated as it’s been in the 90s every day down there.

Looked into it

I’m flying on southwest next week with my wife and 2 kids under 2
I didn’t book a seat for my kids bc they could be lap children
Do you think that they would let me take a car seat for the middle seat?

Texas Totty

You can’t ever put a carseat in the middle. It must be by the window. I’m wondering if family members can sit next to each other.

YB

Yes, it is allowed on Southwest. I’ve had four Southwest flights in the last 10 days.

gemarakop

Cheapest option=I will fly you

kochev

I Flew South west and the Gate Agent even offered me that i should take along my Car seat

Mason

I just switched my flight from American to Delta. Thanks for the info!

Voice of Reason

JetBlue will not be selling middle seats through July 31st.

Barbara Goldin

I bought a flt on el two weeks ago for June 28 to jfk-and then read that they r prob not flying till August. Tried to reach el al
, but no one is answering the phone. How cd they take 2400 from me unless they were definitely flying? Just booked delta yesterday- thank u for that post- but do I just wait till el al cancels? Will they? I want my cash back! But there is no one to speak to!

Texas Totty

Do the airlines let immediate family members sit next to each other (using the middle seat)?

YB

Southwest, yes.

Ariel

Hey Dan. My friend flew Jetblue last week. He purchased 4 seats in Blue, (Him, His wife, and two kids) and chose to rows of window aisle. However when they got their boarding passes he had been re-assigned to three in a row plus an aisle. On the return he got smart and put the family on two separate bookings. Wondering if they will do is this for everyone. I am flying next week with my wife and daughter. I put my daughter in the second to last row (They are currently blocking out the last row on flights). I am in the window in front of her and my wife is in her aisle. This way no on one is in front back or next to her…. will see if we get reassigned.

ytw

if it’s the same price, then sure that yes. (but mainly because of comfort-ability, not because of any health concerns)

Helen

Depending on the route, of course if its possible to go with an airline that blocks the middle seat then that’s ideal. But not every route has that option…

EJF

Just flew American from LA to Miami on the 21st and their 85% capacity was a joke. Passengers in economy stuffed in like sardines and entire rows near the galleys and across from flight attendant jump seats kept empty probably to limit their liability from employee lawsuits. We are flying back in business using 25000 miles per ticket from Alaska and I believe that aircraft is lie flat business so it should be a decent flight but I still think American is the pits but not many non stop options from LAX to MIA. IMO.

Jim

Still more to be learned, but the prevailing consensus is that Covid is transmitted mostly through the air. The risk rises as the concentration in the air increases. Hard to feel safe in an enclosed, recycled air environment full of many other people, such as an airplane. Higher risk for the more at-risk population (generally older), but still dangerous for younger people too who could become unwitting carriers to at-risk populations when they return home.

Ploiny

I would have liked to select that I am not planning to fly until the pandemic is over but if I have to I will select a flight that blocks out the middle seat.

Michael

Anyone know the official policy about the plastic face shields on planes?
Flew United, and a guy near me kept harassing me about me face covering. He called the flight attendant that I took off my mask when I was eating, which they explained to him that it’s ok, then he called them again to snitch when I switched my mask to a plastic face shield. They asked me to switch back to my mask (or keep eating). They were very nice to us, and moved our seats away from the guy. But what is the official policy? Can I wear a face shield?

R

COVID aside, if I’m offered an airline that will not sell the middle seat, I am willing to pay a premium for that flight.

The level of comfort you have on a flight when the middle seat is open increases 10 fold.

Gemarakop

Your walking through the airport surrounded by hundreds of people on any given time. Your breathing the same recycled “enhanced filtered” air as everyone on the plane. I’ll take an empty seat next to me but not gonna pay extra for it.

Pam

Flying to Cancun next week for work and looking at flights now. Normally would fly AA, but not this time. JetBlue is not operating there yet, so Delta will be getting my business!

Travel Entuziast

Such nonsense. Exposure to coronavirus is no guarantee that one will develop COVID-19. Contacting COVID-19 doesn’t mean that a healthy person will die. Sick people shouldn’t fly ever. This hysteria must stop.

Sandy

Could have flown for free with my miles, and that is what I booked originally, but am instead spending $400 for a Delta Flight one way to avoid two stops, one in a hot spot, and to have the middle seat open. I will be flying back with miles on American because the return flight stop is acceptable and if I end up sick I will be home. I am frugal, but the less contact I can have with the badly behaved the better. When I planned this a few months back I never dreamed there would be people who refused to wear a face mask, but since we seem to have a deluge of people here in the US that have chosen to make a medical device into a political statement, we may have to fly defensively for a number of years. And don’t even get me started on how ticked off I am that the antimaskers have helped shoot the numbers so high we can’t visit Europe or Canada this summer. That has to be hurting the big airlines enormously.

J

“Passengers will be allowed to switch flights if they don’t want to fly on a full flight.”

How does this work- Can one book a flight for say Thurs and switch it to a day earlier due to a full flight? or only to a later flight..Reason is Wed flight is much more expensive right now

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