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Recently, American Airlines has had a policy of blocking 15% of seats on their flights so that they could advertise a policy that implied they were paying attention to customer wellbeing amid the global COVID-19 pandemic.
In this article
Social Distancing Onboard: AA and United vs. Delta, Alaska, JetBlue and Southwest
American Airlines’ 15% reduction really didn’t mean anything at all. You could still have a stranger next to you in a middle seat. It sounded nice - or at least sounded like something – but ending it will have no material impact. In any event, American Airlines will no longer block any seats at all.
You’ll still be allowed to change to another flight if your flight will be full at no charge, however finding a flight that is not full could be challenging given their reduced service levels.
United Airlines has just been packing flights full all along. If you don’t like it, fly someone else (I would).
Delta has been the standout, maxing out 60% of available economy seats to be sold on any flight through September as well as no more than 50% of First Class seats and no more than 75% of Delta One seats (Delta One seats have much more room and therefore don’t need as many blocked for significant distancing. CEO Ed Bastian has also taken a very hard line on people that refuse to wear masks and has already banned several passengers from flying Delta.
Southwest is blocking all middle seats.
Alaska has limited sold seats on all flights to 65% capacity until July 31, 2020. Middle seats are blocked.
JetBlue is blocking middle seats on larger plans and blocking aisle seats on small aircraft.
Choose with Your Wallet
If you don’t believe in COVID-19, then AA will suit you perfectly fine. Delta has the best policy overall and is banking that you will pay a bit more for feeling safer onboard and I’ll tell you, I would myself.
In fact, I think this aligns well with Delta’s overall management thinking which is to offer a solid and consistent product overall and fill planes with loyal customers that enjoy the experience – even if their SkyMiles program is largely uncompetitive. And it’s worked. While I wouldn’t buy any airline stocks right now, if I had to pick one to own a bit down the road, it would probably be Delta (DAL) followed by Southwest (LUV). Not a recommendation to buy at all, just my opinion on the management capabilities of the domestic airlines.
But when airline stocks were soaring just a couple weeks ago, I made it pretty clear that buying after that run-up would be a mistake (and they’ve since crashed almost 30% on the whole, with the JETS ETF down from $22 on that day to $16 today.
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