Delta blocks middle seats, pauses automatic upgrades

April 8, 2020, 4:47 PM UTC

Delta Air Lines has announced additional steps to ensure passengers are socially distanced during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

The Atlanta-based carrier will block middle seats in all of its cabins and reduce the number of customers on each flight, it announced in a blog post. Additionally, it is temporarily pausing its automatic, advanced complimentary upgrades for Medallion frequent-flier members.

Customers who wish to be seated directly next to each other, such as family members or people needing additional assistance, will have to contact the airline’s reservations department before their trip or talk to a customer service agent at the gate.

Upgrades aren’t being done away with, the airline says. Instead, those “will now be processed at the gate—still in priority order—to allow gate agents to determine how to best seat customers while considering  social distancing and aircraft weight-and-balance restrictions.”

The airline industry has been especially hard hit with the pandemic. Carriers are slashing flights by up to 90% as demand has dried up. On Tuesday, fewer than 100,000 people boarded flights across America—a number that’s 95% below what it was a year ago.

To ensure the industry survives, the government has earmarked billions of dollars in aid packages, but that hasn’t stopped airlines from furloughing staff.

The pandemic has also caused much confusion among members of frequent-flier programs as to their status when flights return to normal scheduling.

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