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Welp, it was good while it lasted but this morning Southwest Airlines made an announcement that was bound to happen – the carrier is pulling the plug on blocked seats as the holiday season approaches.
FLIGHTS WILL BE SOLD TO CAPACITY
This morning Southwest announced they would be selling flights to capacity starting 1 December 2020.
The carrier has been limiting capacity to 2/3rds of the plane for several months. Given the plane has 3 seats on either side of the aisle, this meant no one was forced to sit in the middle seat.
Note: If you were traveling with friends or family, you could elect to sit next to them and thus sit in the middle seat.
The carrier, in a thread of eight tweets, said they were aligning their decision with “data and research”…
WILL OTHER AIRLINES FOLLOW?
It’s difficult to compare Southwest to all “the other domestic airlines” because there are only three carriers currently blocking middle seats:
- Alaska Airlines blocked seat status – ends 6 January 2021
- Delta Air Lines blocked seat status – ends 6 January 2021
- JetBlue blocked seat status – ends 1 December 2020
Again, I suspect that since these airlines have already presented these timelines, they will stick with these dates.
At the beginning of the outbreak, airlines had to make customers feel safe but as I predicted, when passengers began to return, the airlines would change their tune. In other words, this announcement was inevitable.
I am by no means an infectious disease doctor or scientist, so I can’t speak to the methodology or conclusions of the aforementioned studies. But I think it’s worth highlighting that Southwest referenced several reputable sources that appear to have all reached the same result; with the combination of a HEPA filtration system and face masks, the potential of catching COVID-19 on an airplane is essentially non-existent.
Recognizing that load factors are slowly increasing (even topping 1 million passengers 3 days ago) and we’re heading into the the holiday season, I suspect that Southwest would like to take advantage of the situation and perhaps slow the ‘financial bleed’ as much as possible.
Does the carriers decision influence your choice toward flying on Southwest or away from the carrier and onto another airline?
p.s. If you suspected a backlash and retaliation by customers saying they “will never fly Southwest again,” the comments on the tweet will not disappoint. HA!