LOS ANGELES - Delta Air Lines will end its middle seat blocking policy on May 1.
The commercial airline revealed this travel update on Wednesday, March 31. A company press release noted that Delta plans to do away with the policy as coronavirus vaccines become more available.
"During the past year, we transformed our service to ensure their health, safety, convenience and comfort during their travels," Delta’s CEO Ed Bastian said, in a statement. "Now, with vaccinations becoming more widespread and confidence in travel rising, we’re ready to help customers reclaim their lives."
Bastian went on to cite internal data that suggest 65% of Delta customers who flew in 2019 are expecting to have "at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine by May 1," which is a data point that has made Delta Air Lines confident in ending its pandemic policy.
President Joe Biden, on the other hand, recently upped the nation’s vaccination goal to 200 million administered shots by his 100th day in office – April 29.
From May and onward, Delta will allow customers to choose any seat they want on an aircraft. However, protective face masks and covers will still be required for crew members and passengers in addition to enhanced sanitization.
One flight feature Delta customers can look forward to ahead of the ceased seat-blocking policy is the restoration of snacks and beverages, starting on April 14. Hot food options will make a comeback in June for select domestic coast-to-coast flights.
The CDC currently recommends against non-essential travel regardless of a person’s vaccination status because "travel increases your chance of spreading and getting COVID-19." Despite this recommendation, the Transportation Security Administration has screened more than 1 million airline travelers in the last two weeks.
Delta is notably one of the last major airlines to lift its prohibitive middle seat policy. Competitors such as American Airlines, United and JetBlue have already done away with these seating options.
Blocking middle seats was seen as a necessary health and safety method early on in the coronavirus pandemic after a few studies suggested there were some plane seats that were safer than others.
The U.S. has reported the most coronavirus infections in the world with more than 30.4 million cases as of Wednesday, according to the Johns Hopkins COVID-19 Dashboard.