Delta Air Lines
Photo: Alex Tai/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images
Photo: Alex Tai/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Delta blocks middle seats for social distancing

Delta Air Lines says it will block middle seats on airliners to maintain social distancing due to the coronavirus, weeks after other airlines announced similar moves.

American Airlines announced March 24 it would block half of the middle seats and seats next to flight attendant jump seats. A few days later, German carrier Lufthansa announced it would  keep certain seats open.

On April 8, Atlanta-based Delta said it would block middle seats in the main cabin and in Comfort+ and premium economy cabins with extra legroom. Middle seats will be unavailable for seat selection online and on Delta’s app. The airline will also block seats around jump seats.

That reduces the number of customers on each flight. However, many airline flights have already been running mostly empty due to the steep decline in travel amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Middle seats have long been dreaded by travelers. But those who want to sit directly next to family members or companions should contact reservations in advance or talk to a Delta agent at the gate.

As a result of the changes, Delta said it will also halt automatic advance upgrades for elite-level frequent fliers.

Aircraft safety requirements for weight and balance of the plane also affect seat assignments. Flight attendants can help passengers find a new seat where weight-and-balance restrictions allow it, if it’s within three rows and in the same class of service, according to Delta.

Delta said April 14 that it will have the new seating policies in place through June.

The airline also said it is boarding customers by row, from back to front to reduce the need to walk past other passengers who are seated. It is also reminding them to allow extra space while boarding.

And, Delta is expanding temperature screenings of employees across its system. It had already begun screening temperatures at its Atlanta headquarters.

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About the Author

Kelly Yamanouchi
Kelly Yamanouchi
Business reporter Kelly Yamanouchi covers airlines and the airport.
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