That leaves Delta as the only major network carrier to block middle seats through the holiday travel season. United and American are no longer blocking middle seats. Alaska Airlines, a smaller carrier, said it will block middle seats through Jan. 6.
Although Delta is blocking middle seats, that doesn’t necessarily guarantee passengers will have an empty seat next to them.
That’s because not all airplanes have middle seats. On smaller aircraft like Delta Connection regional jets with two seats on each side of the aisle per row, passengers could still be seated directly next to a stranger. Delta says it will block “select aisle seats” on those aircraft.
“The middle seat blocking is a challenge on regionals because you don’t have a middle seat," Delta’s chief customer experience officer Bill Lentsch said in a Facebook Live video this week. But, he said, “we have selectively gone in and blocked seats from being booked on the regional flights."
Travelers may also still see middle seats occupied on larger Delta planes. That’s because families and groups traveling together can book a middle seat to sit next to each other.
Delta said in August that it would cap seating on its planes at 75% capacity in the main cabin from October through early January. That’s up from the 60% cap it had through Sept. 30.
In business class on Delta widebody jets, which have more spacious seating configurations, there are no capacity limits.
When Delta will lift seating caps will depend on “consumer sentiment and confidence in air travel,” CEO Ed Bastian said last week.
“Sometime in the first half of next year, I have no doubt we will be lifting those caps,” he said.