Delta to Resume Selling Middle Seats as Travel Rebound Builds

Delta Air Lines Inc. will resume selling middle seats on May 1, ending the social-distancing policy after more than a year as a rising pace of Covid-19 vaccinations spurs a U.S. travel rebound.

In another sign of normalization, expanded offerings of onboard snacks, cocktails and other beverages will restart next month, Delta said in a statement Wednesday. The company is also extending the validity of tickets purchased in 2020 and 2021 through the end of next year, and adding more time for travelers to use some benefits earned through the Delta credit card.

The Atlanta-based airline is restoring elements of its pre-pandemic service amid rising evidence of a long-expected resurgence in travel demand as consumers seek to escape a year of staying close to home. With rivals American Airlines Group Inc. and United Airlines Holdings Inc. saying their planes are now flying as much as 80% full, Delta will become the last major U.S. carrier to resume selling all of the seats in its cabins.

Delta to Resume Selling Middle Seats as Travel Rebound Builds

The decision to stop blocking middle seats was based in part on “the knowledge that nearly 65% of those who flew Delta in 2019 anticipate having at least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine by May 1,” Delta Chief Executive Officer Ed Bastian said in the statement. Masks will continue to be required during flights, the carrier said.

Starting April 14, domestic and short-haul international flights will offer snacks, sodas and alcohol, along with tea and coffee, the airline said. On some U.S. transcontinental flights, hot meals will return for first-class passengers and flyers in the airline’s premium Delta One seats. Boxed meals will come back in first class on some flights starting in July.

Many U.S. carriers removed meals and snacks for sale on board and served only bottled water during most of the pandemic, in an effort to help reduce person-to-person contact and make the onboard environment safer. Delta’s loyalty clubs will start to bring back food and beverages in May.

The airline will continue waiving change fees for no-frills Basic Economy tickets purchased through April 30, along with tickets that originate outside North America.

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