Delta, the last major U.S. airline to block the middle seat, is about to open it up again

March 31, 2021, 4:30 PM UTC

Delta Air Lines, the last major U.S. carrier to block the middle seat on its flights, will begin booking full flights again on May 1.

The Atlanta-based carrier is doing away with pandemic-era protocols after a survey of its passengers found that of those who flew Delta in 2019, 65% expect to have received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose by May 1.

“Delta’s decision to block middle seats has given many customers a reason to choose Delta over the past year,” said CEO Ed Bastian in a statement on Monday. “We take great pride in the trust we’ve built with customers by listening and delivering on what they said was most important.”

The airline will continue to mandate masks on all flights. Delta has repeatedly insisted that its filtration system and cleaning protocols make it unlikely travelers will catch the virus while on a flight.

Delta’s move comes as travel experts expect the summer of 2021 to be a busy one. Pent-up demand to get away, combined with increased availability of vaccines, will make people more likely to take to the skies once again this year.

Delta began blocking the middle seat on its flights last April. Other major carriers did as well, but have since resumed full bookings. JetBlue phased out its seat blocking policy late last year in anticipation of holiday travel surges and, as of Jan. 8, no longer limits cabin capacity. Southwest began booking its middle seats again last December. And American and United did away with their policies last summer.

To further spur people onto planes, Delta is offering bonuses on its frequent flyer status, which could move people to higher tiers or free flights earlier. Beginning April 1 and running through the end of the year, customers can earn up to 75% more toward Medallion Status on most ticket types, including Award Travel.

Starting April 14, snack service will resume on flights. The carrier is also extending the deadline to rebook using travel credits to Dec. 31, 2022, and waiving change fees for basic economy passengers through the end of April.