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Delta Air Lines will reopen middle seats on its planes on May 1, the company announced Wednesday, making it the last U.S. airline to end the policy of blocking seats for health precautions.
Delta first started blocking middle seats and limiting the capacity on planes in April 2020. Other airlines, such as Southwest and JetBlue, had similar policies but have returned to selling all seats.
Based on internal surveys, about 64% of Delta customers anticipate having at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine by May 1, increasing to 75% by Memorial Day, Ed Bastian, the CEO of Delta, wrote in the announcement.
“With COVID-19 vaccinations accelerating, we’re hearing from more and more of our customers that they’re ready to reconnect and return to the skies,” he wrote.
As of this week, 31% of Delta employees have been vaccinated, he added, and that should accelerate as more states open vaccine eligibility for all adults.
The airline will also resume snack services on April 14 and introduce new products and rewards as the summer travel season approaches, he said. In early June, hot meals will be offered in the Delta One and first class cabins on some transcontinental flights. By July, almost all Delta Sky Clubs will be reopened, and boxed meals will be offered on some domestic routes.
“These single-serve options are the first step in bringing back food and beverages,” Allison Ausband, the senior vice president for Delta’s in-flight service, said in a separate announcement about food and beverage updates.
At the same time, several COVID-19 safety protocols will remain in place, such as face masks and disinfection protocols.
“Don’t confuse these actions with a return to ‘normal,'” Bastian said. “We’re still operating in a pandemic, and many of the changes we’ve made over the past year … will be permanent.”
Delta News Hub, “CEO Ed Bastian memo: Reclaiming the skies.”
Delta News Hub, “Drinks, snack return to Delta flights April 14.”
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