MIAMI – Following its other US counterparts, Delta Air Lines (DL) will end its COVID-caused blocked-middle seat policy on May 1, being the last major US airline to do so. The move comes at a time when more travelers are returning to the skies.

According to a CNBC report published today, DL “first started blocking middle seats and limiting capacity on smaller planes in April near the start of the pandemic,” just like its competitors, but those “have since gone back to selling all seats.”

Since physical distancing in airplanes can be difficult, Delta and other airlines took measures, such as HEPA filters and enhanced cleaning.

But DL implemented its blocked middle seat policy as an advantage over other competing airlines, and many fliers chose the Atlanta-based carrier because of it.

Photo: Brandon Farris/Airways

Vaccine Rollout Increases Hopes for Summer Bookings

The change comes as a better summer travel season than 2020 is on the horizon. Summer is usually is the most lucrative time of year, but in 2020, airlines took a toll, as many travelers stayed home last year.

The move comes as a massive vaccine rollout is increasing hopes for more bookings for the busy travel period.

On that tone, Delta CEO Ed Bastian stated in an announcement that “65% of customers who flew Delta in 2019 said they expect to have at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine by May 1,” adding that the move is “giving us the assurance to offer customers the ability to choose any seat on our aircraft, while also introducing new services, products and rewards to support the journey.”

In addition to the COVID policy, Delta also announced new services, such as hot meals in its Delta One or first-class cabins on some transcontinental flights starting June 1, and boxed meals on some domestic routes on July 1.

The carrier also stated that “customers with reservations that had been valid until the end of 2021 or who bought tickets this year will be able to use them until the end of 2022.”

Featured image: Francesco Cecchetti/Airways