Jayme Deerwester - USA TODAY - Published Sep. 16, 2020
Southwest Airlines has good news for anxious travelers who have to fly over Thanksgiving weekend: it's leaving middle seats open through November.
"As we transition into autumn and the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday season, we want Southwest customers to have the confidence of knowing that middle seats will remain open through Nov. 30 to accommodate their fall travel plans," said Ryan Green, Southwest’s chief marketing officer. "Southwest has been operating flights with middle seats open throughout the summer and has added thousands of flights to in-demand destinations to provide extra seats for on-board physical distancing and added comfort."
Customers are still welcome to pick their own seats and can sit with their travel partners.
Neither carrier has said whether they plan to extend but it's a possibility given that airlines tend to match each other's policies when a competitor does something bold. Travelers saw this last month when United announced it was dropping change fees and was quickly followed by Delta, American and Hawaiian. (Southwest has never had change fees.)
So far Delta has the most generous policy regarding middle seats: the Atlanta-based carrier has promised to keep them open through Jan. 6, covering the entire holiday travel period.
“We believe that taking care of our customers and employees and restoring confidence in the safety of air travel is more important right now than filling up every seat on a plane,'' Delta Chief Customer Experience Officer Bill Lentsch said in a statement. "We’ll continue taking a thoughtful, layered approach ensuring customers know to expect the highest standard of care as they prepare for their holiday travels.”
At the same time, though, Delta said it is increasing the maximum number of passengers it will put on each flight beginning Oct. 1. The airline isn't filling each flight if demand is strong, but will cap capacity at 75% percent in the main cabin, up from 60% all summer, through Oct. 31. The policy will be reviewed again ahead of that date.
Contributing: Dawn Gilbertson, USA TODAY
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