As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to fade, and travel demand returns, so do some of the positives born out of the last 12 months.
Delta Air Lines, the last remaining airline to block middle seats in order to allow for social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic, will stop doing so on May 1.
Delta made the announcement in a statement by CEO Ed Bastian on Wednesday.
“With inoculations rising and travelers telling us they’re ready to return to Delta, today we’re making a number of changes to our service to meet our customers’ needs, increase their confidence in travel and maintain the trust and loyalty that we’ve built throughout the pandemic,” Bastian wrote.
“Those steps include unblocking the middle seat and allowing customers to book any seat on our planes effective May 1,” he continued.
Delta was the last holdout to keep the policy of blocking the middle seat, allowing flyers to easily socially distance while onboard. Delta’s policy lasted far longer than any other major North American carrier, including Southwest, which returns to blocking middle seats at the beginning of December 2020, and Alaska Airlines, which ended its policy in early 2021.
Delta on Wednesday announced that it will also make other changes, including bringing back more onboard food options and re-opening “almost all of our Delta Sky Clubs by July” including new locations in Ft. Lauderdale and Tokyo-Haneda.
Bastian said that all of the changes are “in response to our customers.”
“They’re telling us they’re ready, and we are ensuring Delta will be ready to transport them safely, comfortably, and conveniently,” he said.
Delta’s announcement comes as more and more travelers begin to make their way to the airports. On Tuesday, the Transportation Security Administration marked its 20th straight day of passenger volume over 1 million, something unheard of since mid-March of last year.
The TSA on March 30 screened 1.059 million passengers, a far departure from the 146,348 it screened on the same day in 2020. Still, the number is still well below the 2019 number of 2.26 million.