Should Passengers Be Upset About Middle Seats Being Occupied Unexpectedly?

Approximately 100 flights were canceled by Delta Air Lines yesterday, Sunday, April 4, 2021 due to a shortage of personnel as the airline experienced the most passenger traffic it has experienced since prior to the official declaration of the current 2019 Novel Coronavirus pandemic — and the delays and inconveniences experienced by passengers who were affected as a result would typically be more than enough to be annoyed, frustrated, or disappointed, as has happened numerous times in the past

Should Passengers Be Upset About Middle Seats Being Occupied Unexpectedly?

Airbus A350-900 Delta Air Lines

Photograph ©2018 by Brian Cohen.

…but when an official announcement — which was perceived as either a promise or a guarantee — was not fulfilled in addition; and passengers were not formally notified about the sudden change in policy, should they be upset?

Middle seats in the economy class cabins have been blocked from being reserved or occupied since April of 2020 aboard airplanes which are operated by Delta Air Lines due to the current 2019 Novel Coronavirus pandemic — some aisle seats in aircraft with 2×2 seating configurations were also blocked — and the company is one of the last airlines to still block middle seats, which were supposed to remain empty until passengers would occupy them once again on Saturday, May 1, 2021…

Since Delta introduced its middle seat block in April 2020, consumer behavior and vaccination rates have been the baseline for Delta’s decision to remove or extend the block throughout the pandemic. While scientific studies showed the risk of transmission onboard a full aircraft with everyone wearing a mask is nearly one in a million, Delta was the only airline to continue its middle seat block for an entire year to give customers peace of mind.

…but in order to alleviate the disruption yesterday as much as possible, middle seats were unexpectedly occupied — resulting in airplanes filled with passengers.

United Airlines never blocked any seats at any time during the pandemic; and American Airlines blocked some seats for a brief period of time. Other airlines — including Southwest Airlines, Alaska Airlines, and JetBlue Airways — also had limited seating for months during the pandemic; but most of the airlines have resumed their seating policies. Because Delta Air Lines is one of the only airlines left which blocks seats, some customers were willing to pay a premium to fly aboard their airplanes for the privilege to sit comfortably next to an empty seat — rather than patronize competing airlines — as designed by the public relations of Delta Air Lines.

Delta Air Lines issued an apology to customers who were inconvenienced; and the majority of them had been rebooked on other flights for the same travel day — and the airline has reached out to impacted customers as a gesture of goodwill…

…but was that enough?


Delta Air Lines Reykjavik

Photograph ©2018 by Brian Cohen.

Middle seats were still being occupied aboard airplanes which are operated by Delta Air Lines through today; but the policy of blocking middle seats is supposed to be back in effect for tomorrow, Tuesday, April 6, 2021 — but that is of little comfort to passengers who might feel like they have been cheated out of what was supposed to be an experience with which the middle seat was to remain unoccupied…

…but what would the consequences have been had Delta Air Lines kept its “promise” of keeping a middle seat unoccupied? Would additional flights have had to be cancelled? Would affected passengers have had to be delayed an even longer period of time until they eventually arrived at their final destinations? One could argue that the employees of Delta Air Lines did everything possible to keep travel disruptions as minimal as possible.

Should passengers be upset about middle seats being occupied unexpectedly — and if so, what compensation should they receive from Delta Air Lines?

All photographs ©2018 by Brian Cohen.

5 thoughts on “Should Passengers Be Upset About Middle Seats Being Occupied Unexpectedly?”

  1. Barry Graham says:

    Yes, if the airline has made a commitment that middle seats will be blocked until the end of the April, as I believe they have, then they should be blocked until the end of April.

  2. don says:

    Yes, especially if the person is unvaccinated.

    1. Barry Graham says:

      I doubt it. The risk of transmission in an airplane is tiny. Of course people should get vaccinated anyway but that’s not really the point here.

  3. Bob Jones says:

    You are an anti vaxxer. Goodbye!

    1. Barry Graham says:

      That is off topic for this article.

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