The great social distancing experiment on airplanes is officially over.
Delta Air Lines has flown its final flight while blocking middle seats, according to the Washington Post , signaling the end of social distancing on airplanes that went into practice last year when the COVID-19 pandemic first hit.
Delta was the last airline to abandon the practice; middle seats on all flights were available for purchase on Delta as of Saturday, May 1.
“While Delta’s decision to block middle seats has given many customers a reason to choose Delta over the past year, the signature hospitality of our employees and the experiences they deliver to customers every day have also deepened their trust in our airline,” Delta CEO Ed Bastian said in a statement.
During an earnings call in mid-April, Bastian said the change would provide “a powerful tool for improving our financial performance.” While that might sound like hyperbole, do that math. In an average plane with a middle aisle, six seats to a row (three on each side of the aisle), and 32 total rows, that’s 64 seats blocked each flight. At an average cost per round trip domestic tickets costing around $340, you’re looking at $21,760 in lost revenue per flight.
“With vaccinations accelerating and travel interest rebounding sharply, it’s more likely that President Biden will dunk a basketball on live TV than airlines will reimpose middle-seat blocking,” Scott Keyes, founder of Scott’s Cheap Flights, said in an email to the Post.