Updated: December 9, 2020
Although I haven’t flown since late February, everyone I’ve spoken to and all the stories I’ve read claim that Delta Air Lines, followed by Southwest Airlines, are doing the best job flying during COVID-19. There are a number of reasons why but what’s making them stand out from the rest is that they’re blocking the middle seats.

But these two airlines are not the only ones doing this so I listed the others below with the dates they’ve committed to keeping the middle seat open.

Delta Air Lines
Delta Air Lines is blocking middle seats through March 30, 2021.

“Delta will block the selection of middle seats in Delta Premium Select, Delta Comfort+ and Main Cabin via the Fly Delta app or online.

“For customers in parties of 1-2: Middle seats will be blocked for safety. For customers in parties of 3 or more: Middle seats will appear as available for booking, to allow families and travel companions to select seats together.

Delta will also make sure that their flights are not filled to capacity. Customers can expect that Delta will:
-limit the number of customers on board all aircraft – with or without middle seats.
-limit the First Class cabin to half capacity to further ensure more space between customers.
-block one aisle of seats on aircraft without middle seats.
-on routes where planes begin to fill, they will continue to look for opportunities to upsize to a larger aircraft type or add more flights.

Alaska Airlines
Alaska Airlines is extending blocking seats through January 6, 2021. However, keep in mind, they do warn: “There can be occasions where extra space cannot be guaranteed due to unforeseen changes such as re-accommodating guests from a previously canceled flight.”

JetBlue is extending its commitment to “seat distancing” for flights through the “holiday season” in rows where parties are not traveling together. According to their website: “We previously announced plans to limit onboard capacity to 70% and no longer guarantee empty middle or adjacent seats for travel from October 15 through December 1. During the busy holiday season, from December 2 through January 7, 2021, we will limit onboard capacity to 85%, but specific seats will no longer be blocked and we will not guarantee empty middle or adjacent seats. Starting January 8, 2021, we’ll make all seats available for sale during the winter period when demand is typically lower and flights are often less full.”

Hawaiian Airlines
My favorite airline to fly to the islands especially in their lie-flat first class seats is Hawaiian Airlines. They “are currently preventing the booking of middle seats on our aircraft to continue to provide more space for guests and flight attendants through December 15. Depending on load factors, seating may need to be adjusted at the gate to maximize spacing throughout the cabin and meet weight and balance restrictions.”

I know American and United claim that blocking the middle seats don’t prevent passengers from getting COVID-19 and that’s true because if a passenger near you or even passing by has it and they’re not wearing a mask, you can get infected. But by blocking the middle seat, it does reduce the number of passengers on the plane, therefore reducing your chances. It’s also a lot more comfortable to fly with an open seat next to you. No more elbowing for that arm rest.

As you can see, Delta has the most generous policy of the four airlines since they’re blocking middle seats until January 6, 2021. They’re followed by Alaska and JetBlue. Hopefully, the latter two will extend.

If I was going to fly, I would not only choose an airline that’s blocking middle seats but I would also choose a window seat so I’m not near people passing through the aisle or getting stuff from their bags. I would also steer clear of the bathrooms.

Do you have any tips to add for flying during COVID-19? Please leave them below!

8 Comments On "Which U.S. Airlines Are Blocking Middle Seats During COVID-19"
  1. Blondie|

    I have been on planes and at least six different airports over the summer…
    No problems or big concerns. The planes are much cleaner (even the bathrooms) as well as airports. It’s your hands to your face that is the big problem when you travel! Yes, coughing and sneezing is a problem, but much of that is mitigated by everyone wearing masks.
    My airline pilot neighbor said the cabin air filtration system on the major airline he works for is excellent. I think the article below is very informative!


  2. CJ|

    I do not know if it is their policy or if I and later, my friend, were just lucky. We each had excellent distancing row-wise on 3 differnt trips with Allegiant in the forward class (economy plus?).

  3. Tarie|

    Flying American LAX-ORD I just bought the middle seat for $89 as an insurance policy for us.
    None of the above airlines fly nonstop on this route. Keeping my fingers crossed!

  4. Beth Graham|

    I booked my first pandemic-era flight last month and specifically chose Delta (my points are elsewhere) who claimed to keep middle seats open. The seating chart had every other seat blocked off so I booked my daughter (an asthmatic) and I both window seats (2/2 configuration). A man sat down in the aisle seat next to me. I inquired and was told that the center seat policy doesn’t apply on smaller aircraft. EVERY single seat on the plane was filled. It was ridiculously foggy but we boarded anyway and left the gate (gotta keep their on-time departure stats). Needless to say, we sat on the tarmac for 90 minutes in heavy fog before ultimately returning to the gate. I was angry-Tweeting Delta the entire time. We rented a car and drove home. I won’t trust them again.

    1. Johnny Jet|

      Thanks for sharing!

  5. Tim Leffel|

    Flying on American then flying on Delta was like night and day for me. The former seemed like it was just going through the motions and the plane was completely packed both legs. Delta felt 10 times safer and their actions indicated they were putting passenger health first. Hopefully they’ll and others will extend the policy or reinstate it since case numbers are going up everywhere and planes could be a moving petri dish during the holidays. It doesn’t help that these airlines are based in or have their biggest hubs in states that haven’t taken the virus threat seriously–like Texas and Florida. Smart people aren’t going to fly on packed planes, no matter how often the airline shills tell us it’s as safe as going to the grocery store. You don’t sit down next to 300 people in the grocery store for hours on end!

  6. Gram Roseavelt|

    Tim Leffel,
    What a contrast to Beth Graham’s experience.
    You did not mention if Delta left the middle seats empty or not, curious.
    Would you give us some details why Delta felt better?

    You said “Hopefully they’ll and others will extend the policy or reinstate it since case numbers are going up…” they and others will …
    That would be nice but considering the airline business reputation it does not seem likely unless consumer pressure is intense.
    We do have consensus with your last statement , its probably smart not to travel by commercial flight right now. At the very least you are increasing your risk of exposure. It would be interesting to know how much a travelers chance of exposure is increased by, 10%, 20%, 50% ?. I am sure someone has done the math already.

  7. Tim|


    Yes, every middle seat was empty unless there was a family of 3 traveling together. We boarded back to front, seat-back screens reminded us that masks were mandatory and a flight attendant reprimanded a passenger who didn’t have his on. It felt like they were taking passenger health seriously instead of just paying it lip service. They will get all my business going forward, especially since Southwest has now caved in as well. I cancelled plans to fly with them in February after they didn’t extend their capacity controls. It’s too risky.

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