Southwest Airlines will keep middle seats open through at least the end of September, as the airline continues to follow social distancing rules it unveiled earlier in the COVID-19 pandemic.
Southwest will reportedly sell only 65 of its seats through Sept. 30 in order to allow guests to fly without someone in the middle seat. No seats will actually be blocked, Southwest said, but instead it will be limiting the number of passenger onboard to allow middle seats to remain open.
Families and groups traveling together will be able to use those seats and sit together, Southwest said.
The airline will continue to board in groups of 10 at a time (as opposed to the 30 it had been boarding prior to the COVID-19 pandemic) and will continue to enforce its face mask policy (face coverings will also continue to be “required at the airport and while traveling”).
The carrier’s health declaration form will continue to be required at check-in—the form requires guests to acknowledge the airline’s face mask policy, and confirm they do not have symptoms of COVID-19 and have not been diagnosed with, or exposed to, COVID-19 in the 14 days prior to travel.
According to a message to its partners this week, Southwest “ultimately could not reach an agreement” with Sabre given its “need for both low cost and best service across all our channels,” and “therefore made the decision to sunset our basic booking request (BBR) agreement at the end of 2020.”
“Moving forward, we will continue with our recently announced partnership with Sabre IX, continue partnering with GetThere, and look forward to exploring other Sabre solutions.”
Southwest is also working with Amadeus to bring its “full participation to Amadeus’ GDS channel” by the end of the third quarter 2020. The carrier is also fully participating with Travelport’s platforms, including Apollo, Worldspan, and Galileo (which was activated in early July).
Currently, more than 90% of all Southwest fares are available in the GDS (that number was less than 40% at the end of April).