Delta Air Lines has consistently ranked high among travelers during the pandemic, for the ability to read the room and block middle seats to help maintain social distancing.
But now, the airline is opening up the middle seat again, starting May 1.
“As vaccinations become more widespread, consumer demand and behaviors show us that confidence in travel is on the rise and customers are ready to reclaim their lives,” a statement from Delta reads.
Delta CEO Ed Bastian said the company’s research shows that at least 64% of its pre-pandemic passenger base anticipate having at least one dose of the vaccine by May 1. He warned employees, however, that the airline will still take mitigation efforts serious.
“Don’t confuse these actions with a return to ‘normal,'” said Bastian in a memo to employees. “We’re still operating in a pandemic, and many of the changes we’ve made over the past year, such as strengthening our cleanliness protocols and eliminating change fees, will be permanent. Importantly, masks remain critical to our ability to safely welcome more people onboard our planes, and we remain committed to enforcing these requirements.”
Delta is the last U.S. airline still blocking middle seats in regular economy as a safety measure. United Airlines briefly blocked seats, and American Airlines ended that last summer. Southwest and JetBlue ended the practice in December.