LOS ANGELES - Travelers on Delta Air Lines will still be able to practice social distancing onboard holiday flights and through early next year.
Delta will continue to provide more space for customers as the only U.S. airline blocking middle seats for flights departing now through March 30, 2021.
“We recognize some customers are still learning to live with this virus and desire extra space for their peace of mind. We are listening and will always take the appropriate steps to ensure our customers have complete confidence in their travel with us,” Bill Lentsch, Chief Customer Experience Officer said in a memo Wednesday.
Delta said it currently has more than 100 protective measures in place, such as sanitizing every flight, a comprehensive employee COVID testing program and the use of industrial-grade HEPA filters that extract more than 99.99% of particles, including viruses.
“We are listening and will always take the appropriate steps to ensure our customers have complete confidence in their travel with us," Lentsch told FOX TV Stations.
Face coverings will still be required for passengers 2 years of age and older while checking in, boarding, during the flight and at baggage claim.
In August, Delta extended its middle seat blocking policy through the holiday and winter season, blocking the selection of middle seats and limiting the number of customers per flight through Jan. 6, 2021.
In the same month, Delta also placed more than 240 people on a “no-fly list” for failing to comply with its mandatory mask policy.
“Although rare, we continue to put passengers who refuse to follow the required face-covering rules on our no-fly list,” CEO Ed Bastian said in the memo, which highlighted the airline’s new hub facility in Salt Lake City.
“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. 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," Lentsch said.
Delta and Southwest are the only two domestic airlines which are blocking middle seats through the Thanksgiving holiday.
Other airlines including American Airlines started booking flights to capacity on July 1. The planned increase allowed middle seats to be available for purchase.
"American continues to sell middle seats as we provide critical air service for those who need to travel now," a spokesperson with American Airlines told Fox TV Stations. "On an aircraft, social distancing is not viable. Even if middle seats are blocked, passengers are not six feet from the person across the aisle or the person seated in front or behind them."
Instead, American says the airline is focused on other efforts to make the travel journey as safe as possible.
"We have multiple measures in place through our Clean Commitment to care for the safety and well-being of our customers and team members," American's spokesperson said.
Delta’s policy update comes as positive COVID-19 cases spike across the United States.
The United States hit yet another grim milestone with more than 11 million COVID-19 cases and nearly 250,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins data. The milestone came less than a week after the U.S. surpassed 10 million positive cases.