Delta Air Lines said Wednesday it'll continue to block middle seats on flights through the end of March.
The airline – the largest carrier at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport – is the only major airline that's still blocking middle seats to allow for more social distancing among passengers.
Delta previously said it would block its middle seats until Jan. 6, 2021, but on Wednesday it extended its practice of not selling middle seats until March 30, 2021, a news release says.
Airlines in the United States have been pulling back on social distancing measures after new research shows the air filtration on planes coupled with everyone wearing a mask can greatly lower the risk of COVID-19 transmission, the Washington Post said.
“Several independent studies have validated the effectiveness of the Delta CareStandard’s multi-layered protection, like advanced ventilation and an extensive cleaning regimen, which together significantly reduce the risk of flight-related transmission,” said Bill Lentsch, Chief Customer Experience Officer.
“However, we recognize some customers are still learning to live with this virus and desire extra space for their peace of mind," Lentsch added. "We are listening and will always take the appropriate steps to ensure our customers have complete confidence in their travel with us.”
Many airlines, including Sun Country, American and United are not blocking middles seats and haven't for months. Others will start selling middle seats in the coming weeks, including Southwest Airlines on Dec. 1 and JetBlue in January.
While flying in an airplane may not increase your risk of COVID-19 more than shopping at a grocery store (studies have shown that if all precautions are taken – wearing a mask, washing hands, etc. – the risk of flying may be less than shopping thanks to the plane's air filtration system), there are other things to consider when traveling during the pandemic.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says any travel increases your chance of getting and spreading the disease, noting people should consider how COVID-19 is spreading at their destination (you can check that here) – the more cases there are, the more likely you are to get infected and spread it to others when you get home.
With air travel specifically, the CDC says:
"Air travel requires spending time in security lines and airport terminals, which can bring you in close contact with other people and frequently touched surfaces. Most viruses and other germs do not spread easily on flights because of how air circulates and is filtered on airplanes. However, social distancing is difficult on crowded flights, and sitting within 6 feet of others, sometimes for hours, may increase your risk of getting COVID-19.
"Also consider how you get to and from the airport, as public transportation and ridesharing can increase your chances of being exposed to the virus."