Delta Expects to Lift Seating Capacity Limits in the First Half of Next Year

Delta Air Lines Airbus a321 interior

Delta Air Lines expects to be able to lift passenger capacity limits on planes in the first half of next year, the airline’s CEO said during an earnings call this week.

While Delta’s CEO, Ed Bastian, said no official decision has been made, he has “no doubt we will be lifting those caps” sometime in 2021. The airline has previously blocked middle seats until at least Jan. 6, 2021.

“We continue to watch it,” Bastian said, according to a transcript of the call. “Obviously, it's going to be [conditional] on consumer sentiment and confidence in air travel. I think as each week goes by… confidence is improving.”

While Delta has been gradually making their way back to normal for certain aspects of flying (like resuming its beer and wine service for first-class and Comfort+ passengers after initially suspending it and reopening its Sky Club lounges), Bastian said the airline has reduced its fleet and workforce and is currently 20 percent smaller than the beginning of 2020.

In addition to blocking certain seats, Delta has increased the number of pre-flight cleaning staff to ensure more employees are disinfecting planes between flights as well as implemented a strict mask-wearing policy. Passengers are required to wear certain types of masks, receive pre-approval if they claim they can’t wear a mask due to a medical reason and are even placed on a no-fly list if they refuse to comply.

Bastian said the airline has had no documented instances of COVID-19 transmission on its aircraft.

“While we still have a long road ahead of us when you look through the large toll that the pandemic has taken, we are showing progressive improvement across the business, performing well on factors within our control and ensuring the company is well positioned as demand starts to return,” Bastian said. “But we do believe it could still be two years or more until we achieve a normalized revenue environment, until then, we will be smaller in the short term, but also more agile and more efficient.”

Alison Fox is a contributing writer for Travel + Leisure. When she’s not in New York City, she likes to spend her time at the beach or exploring new destinations and hopes to visit every country in the world. Follow her adventures on Instagram.

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