MIAMI – Southwest Airlines (WN) has been blocking middle seats on flights for months following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. While crucial for restoring passenger comfort in taking back to the sky, the policy has had a growing financial impact.

With a cost of US$20m in October, predicted between US$40m and US$60m in November, there is concern that if the cost stays on the high end it could easily hit US$100m by the end of 2020.

The New Southwest Airlines colors on Heart Two (Credits: Ian Petchenik /Airways)

A Justifiable Cost

With WN announcing expansion to Houston George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) and Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD) along with inaugural flights out of Miami International Airport (MIA), the airline is expecting a higher demand for Thanksgiving and the beginning of the holiday season.

Profits from such growing demand could potentially be stifled by blocking access to the middle seats, a policy WN intends to cancel on December 1, allowing a better profit potential for the Christmas and New Years holidays.

While data shows that most passengers in the US are okay with taking full flights, there are still many for whom a blocked middle seat would be a huge reassurance, a factor WN is definitely considering on the year of its first financial loss in 40 years.

Featured image: Carrier celebrates Disney•Pixar’s All-New Adventure in High-Flying Style. PHOTO: Southwest Airlines.