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Delta Blocks Middle Seats Through Next March

Delta Air Lines (NYSE: DAL) said Wednesday it will continue to limit cabin capacity through March 30, 2021, part of the airline's effort to reassure passengers it is safe to fly as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to weigh on travel demand.

Delta said it will not allow customers traveling in parties of one or two to select middle seats, attempting to provide extra space for customers while still giving families the opportunity to sit together. The airline in a statement said that although a number of studies have indicated the risk of contracting COVID-19 on board an airplane is low, it wants customers to feel safe when they fly.

"We recognize some customers are still learning to live with this virus and desire extra space for their peace of mind," Bill Lentsch, Delta's chief customer experience officer, said in a statement. "We are listening and will always take the appropriate steps to ensure our customers have complete confidence in their travel with us."

Image source: Delta Air Lines.

Delta is forgoing the opportunity to generate extra revenue at a time when airlines could desperately use it. The industry has seen travel demand plummet this year due to the pandemic, and Delta expects fourth-quarter revenue to come in 65% to 70% below last year's numbers.

Delta and Alaska Air Group are the only major airlines committed to blocking middle seats through the holiday season.

The airline is potentially sacrificing revenue with the move but appears to be banking the near-term loss of sales will be worth it if Delta can establish itself as a trusted name with consumers and win long-term customer loyalty. Delta seemingly can afford to give up that added revenue and remain airborne.

Delta burnt through $24 million per day on average in the third quarter. But in an investor presentation earlier this week, the airline said it expects that number to drop to $10 million to $12 million per day in the fourth quarter thanks to cost controls and a slow uptick in revenue around the holiday season.

The airline expects to have about $16 billion in total liquidity at year's end.

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Lou Whiteman owns shares of Delta Air Lines. The Motley Fool recommends Alaska Air Group and Delta Air Lines. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.


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