Delta Air Lines will continue to block middle seats and cap seating through Sept. 30 to stem the spread of COVID-19, the airline announced Wednesday.
“Reducing the overall number of customers on every aircraft across the fleet is one of the most important steps we can take to ensure a safe experience for our customers and people,” Bill Lentsch, Chief Customer Experience Officer, said in a statement.
Middle seats will be shown as unavailable during the booking process. On some smaller aircraft, some aisle seats will be blocked. Delta will also cap seating between 50% and 75%, depending on the cabin.
Delta first announced it would block middle seats in mid-April and expanded its seat-capping commitment in May.
All airlines say they are offering some measure of social distancing, but executives say the moves are temporary because removing up to one-third of seats permanently would decimate their already weak finances, or force them to raise fares significantly.
Delta, along with other major U.S. airlines and an increasing number of airports, already requires passengers and crew members to wear masks or other face coverings.
JetBlue announced last month that it would continue to block middle seats in rows in situations where passengers aren't traveling together through July 6. Southwest also announced it would keep middle seats open through at least July 31.
The moves come as travel demand is picking up and travelers are finding flights more full than expected given months of headlines about empty flights.
American Airlines will continue to limit the number of customers on each aircraft and may reassign seats to create more space between customers, according to spokesman Ross Feinstein.
"As more people get back to traveling and loads are higher, American is deploying new tools to notify customers and allow them to move to more open flights when available," he said.
United Airlines, responding to social media backlash about a full Newark-San Francisco flight, has said that it would do its best to notify passengers 24 hours before their flight if it was going to be more than 70% full.
Here's why:Airline middle seats won't stay empty forever in the name of social distancing
Contributing: Dawn Gilbertson