May 8, 2021

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Delta No Longer Blocks Middle Seats- $150m lost in March on blocked seats alone

3 min read

Mr. Ed Bastian, Chief Executive Officer, CEO, Delta Airline

The US-based airline, Delta airline, which pioneered the removal of centre seats in its aircraft at the heat of the pandemic in 2020, has cancelled the middle seat blockade it started in April 2020. In late March this year, the airline announced it would end the blockade of its middle seats at the end of April 2021.

On the 1st May 2021, Delta indicated the availability of the middle row seats it earlier blocked and the airline sold all its seats.

Delta has now joined its peers in booking its flights full, thus becoming the last of the major airline to institute load factor caps in all cabin classes on every aircraft.

According to the airline’s Twitter handle, Passengers will still need to wear a face mask. The only exemptions are for children under the age of two or those with disabilities to complete a “Clearance-to-Fly” procedure before departure.
The statement in the airline’s terms and conditions stated that any refusal to complying with the mask mandate can lead to fines, punishments, and the “possibility to have your travel privileges suspended”.

Delta credited the rationale for joining its peers in booking its flights full to the, improved public health situation combined with a growing airline recovery which compelled it to finally sell all seats on its planes after a year of the blockade.
Delta Air Lines CEO, Ed Bastian, hinged the decision on two major factors, the government scorecard on public health and the comforting feedback from its numerous customers.

Middle Seat Now On Sale

The CEO, speaking about the sun setting on the blockade at the airline’s first-quarter earnings call said, “We are aligning with the recommendations of health professionals and government officials who continue to ensure the safe and effective distribution of vaccines and listening to our customers”.

Another factor given by the CEO was, “based on our survey work, 75% of our customers expect to be vaccinated by Memorial Day. With improving demand and vaccine trends, we announced that we’ll start selling middle seats on May 1st, providing a powerful tool for improving our financial performance

Delta’s President, Glen Hauenstein, explained further what the sun setting on the blockade removal would translate to better revenue for the airline and “the carrier’s sellable capacity will increase from 46% of 2019 levels in April, to 67% of 2019 levels in June”.

Glen Hauenstein expects the airline to experience a gradual revenue improvement with the 2nd quarter revenue in June.

Hauenstein envisaged revenue at the end of the second quarter to be approximately $2 billion higher than the first-quarter revenues.

He however stated that on earnings realised in March, Delta lost approximately $100 to $150 million in gross revenue with the blockade of the middle seat in place.

He explained the loss was not on materials but revenue that spilt over because Delta did not sell the capacity to cater to passengers looking to book. Meaning there were passengers ready to buy the seats but the airline’s policy then in force.

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