Business Insider has had an expert crunch the numbers and says airline passengers are willing to pay extra to ride socially distanced. Airlines that continue to block middle seats are not only winning customer loyalty, they might be making more money. The publication reviewed financial data from the Big Three airlines (Delta, American, United) and determined Delta, which continues to fly its aircraft at 60 percent capacity, is reaping the rewards of its position on operating an airline during a pandemic. “The conversation has shifted,” Henry Harteveldt, of travel industry research firm Atmosphere Research, told Business Insider. “It’s not that on-time performance doesn’t matter, but consumers value physical distancing right now more than they do on-time performance.”
The publication said Delta didn’t raise prices even though it blocked all middle seats in economy and every other seat in business class. It was already more expensive than its competitors and just maintained those prices. Delta CEO Ed Bastian said the airline has surveyed its customers and most of them are in the A, C, D and F seats because B and E are blocked. Delta insists keeping those seats clear was a safety consideration and not a marketing decision and that it turned out well for the airline because it was able to manage its schedules and equipment to make the best use of almost half-empty airplanes. “So indirectly that is coming through in price. But that’s not the objective,” Bastian said. Southwest, JetBlue and Alaska are also joining Delta in blocking middle seats at least until the end of September.