If you’re contemplating air travel in the next couple of months and your travels include flights with Delta Air Lines, you may want to consider pampering yourself by traveling in the forward cabin of the aircraft. Not only will you be assured of generous social distance from other passengers aboard the flight, but through January 6, 2021 Delta has committed to blocking First Class seats so that on Delta mainline flights (Airbus and Boeing aircraft), no more than 50% of the first class seats will be offered for sale.
That number is 67% on regional jet aircraft that typically have two first class seats on one side of the aisle and a single seat on the other side. Regional jet aircraft such as the CRJ 700 and 900, or the Embraer 175 or 190, will be capped at 67% occupancy, so no more than two seats out of three in each first class row will be occupied.
Of course, First Class travel is more expensive than choosing one of Delta’s options in coach, i.e. Basic Economy, Economy or Economy Comfort, but during these desperate times for the airline industry, you may just be surprised how the difference in price between First Class and Economy Comfort has narrowed on many routes.
Delta continues to block middle seats in the economy cabin on larger aircraft to assure safe spacing during the continuing COVID-19 pandemic, as well as limiting the number of passengers in coach on all regional jets. While Delta is clearly running the risk of losing revenue on flights that even today might be more than 50% or 67% full if seats weren’t blocked, they are encouraging travelers who do decide to take to the skies to choose them over the competition. Not only is the carrier enticing new customers to give them a try, they are reaching out to their loyal base of SkyMiles members by saying, if you’re ready to fly, we’re ready to take you where you need to go, with personal space and safety as the top priority.
For Delta travelers burning off some previously earned SkyMiles, the carrier is making it very attractive to consider an upgrade from Economy to Economy Comfort, and often even to First Class. Yours truly is taking my first flights since February in a couple of weeks from Minneapolis-St. Paul to Louisville, Kentucky. I was able to book an award ticket in Economy Comfort for just 2,000 miles more than straight Economy, and that’s for all three legs of my journey. Just an added 5,000 miles would put me in the forward cabin, but for these short legs and knowing that there’ll be an empty seat adjacent to me, I chose Economy Comfort.
If First Class doesn’t entice you, keep in mind that Southwest Airlines is also blocking middle seats on all of its flights right now, so if your plans pop up on short notice, they would be another great option to fly with plenty of personal space. Southwest has just one aircraft in its fleet, various models of the Boeing 737 with 3-3 seating in a coach configuration, so with blocked middle seats you are sure to be comfortable and nicely spaced out.
Of course, while infectious disease experts including Dr. Fauci and Michael Osterholm of the University of Minnesota strongly suggest that everyone stay home and not travel this upcoming holiday season, there is just too much COVID fatigue to keep Americans in place for such a long period of time. The advice is no-doubt well intentioned, but the reality of the situation is that some people will listen and act accordingly, while others will do what they want no matter what they’re told. My Louisville trip is a final visit to see a relative in hospice care, so I’ve decided it’s something that I just need to do. As much as I love travel and flying, if the situation were anything less immediate, I’d be hunkering down for the long upcoming Minnesota winter.
If you do choose to travel, wear a mask and take all other precautions to stay safe, and to keep others safe as well.