Southwest Airlines: No More Blocked Seats Starting In December

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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.

FINAL STAMP

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!

7 comments

  1. Another great article. Southwest’s decision doesn’t move the needle for me because I’ve been focused on taking road trips and exploring the great outdoors.

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  2. Great stuff in this article! Something that Southwest failed to mention was that the DoD study was in partnership with United Airlines and they only studied seated passengers and got no data about people moving about within a cabin. Personally, I didn’t think I cared much about the middle seat being empty until 2 days before a DEN to SAN trip on United and the flight was sold out. I quickly cancelled and rescheduled on Delta, even adding a layover. I’m okay getting on an airplane right now as long as there is some space.

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  3. @dronejammin interesting indeed! I was unaware of that (oh-so-minor) detail. lol I think the middle seat being occupied is an often overlooked perk until it’s…well, occupied. curious, did you happen to transit through the new $4 billion SLC airport? If so, your thoughts?

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  4. I should have known to take notes for you! We only had a few minutes there so didn’t leave A gates. Would have liked to see “The Canyon” and spend a few minutes in the Delta sky club but the concourse was done really well. Definitely a focus on and messaging appealing to tech-savvy travelers. Lots of plug in stations, fast wifi, etc. I did get a regular cup of coffee and a bottle of water for less than $3 which I think would be unheard of in pretty much any other airport in the country. They seem to have done a good job in the small part I experienced.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. @1TattedPassport If I had to take a flight before the end of the year, I would probably fly American Airlines if it was a short flight (under 2 hours) and apply my 500-mile upgrades to get us into domestic first/business class.

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