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Which U.S. Airlines Are Still Blocking Middle Seats?

By Michelle Baran

Dec 15, 2020

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Give us some space! These airlines will.

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Give us some space! These airlines will.

The number of U.S. carriers still guaranteeing some added space is shrinking.

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On November 29, the Sunday after Thanksgiving, the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) screened 1.18 million travelers in a single day, the highest number of travelers since air travel went into a free fall in mid-March—and an indication of the kind of uptick in fliers we may expect to see during the forthcoming holiday season.

While that’s good news for the embattled airline industry, the growing number of passengers could be of concern for travelers who were hoping to have a little extra space between themselves and others to remain socially distant when flying.

Southwest Airlines, which had been limiting the number of seats sold on flights so that passengers could maintain some distance, resumed selling all available seats on December 1. And seat blocking on Hawaiian Airlines flights ended on December 15

If space is important to you, two U.S. airlines are still guaranteeing it—but not for much longer.  

Which U.S. airlines are still blocking middle seats (and until when)

Alaska Airlines

Alaska is blocking middle seats and limiting the number of passengers on flights through January 6, 2021. In the case of families traveling together, middle seats can be used. The carrier states that if extra space cannot be guaranteed (for instance, on a flight that is accommodating passengers from a canceled flight), fliers can speak with a customer service agent about options for getting onto a less crowded flight.

Delta

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Delta recently announced that it will be blocking middle seat selection through March 30, 2021. For parties of one or two people, middle seats will be blocked entirely to others. For parties of three or more, middle seats will appear as available for booking so that families and travel companions can sit together. 

Should Fliers Wear Goggles and Face Shields on a Plane?

What other U.S. airlines are doing to allow for some space

American Airlines

American says it is encouraging physical distancing in the gate area and while passengers board its aircraft.

JetBlue

JetBlue is limiting the number of travelers on flights through the holiday season. But if travelers want to be absolutely certain there will be an empty seat next to them, the only way to do so is to book it. Travelers will have the option to book an empty seat for the same price as the seat they are sitting in—so they can pay double the cost of their seat to ensure an empty one besides them.

Southwest Airlines

Southwest has said it will make it easier for customers booked on fuller flights to rebook to another flight, but it’s not clear exactly how—Southwest, like most other major carriers now, already does not charge a change fee.

United Airlines

While United does not guarantee that middle seats will be blocked, the carrier said if a regularly scheduled flight is expected to be fairly full, the airline will “do our best” to contact passengers approximately 24 hours prior to departure to decide whether they want to proceed with their travel plans or change the flight with no change fee. The carrier is also deplaning its aircraft five rows at a time in an effort to reduce crowding.

Our Picks for Face Masks to Buy—and the Latest Rules for Wearing Them

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All of the major U.S. airlines—including Alaska, American, Delta, Hawaiian, JetBlue, Southwest, and United—have mandatory mask policies in place with strict enforcement rules. New research has shed some light on how vigilant mask wearing may help prevent COVID-19 transmissions in-flight.

This story was originally published on October 26, 2020, and was updated on December 15, 2020, to include current information.

>> Next: How Much Do Masks Really Protect You on Flights?

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