Southwest Airlines to block middle seats through at least October
July 23, 2020
Last Update: 2020-07-23 13:18:10
Southwest Airlines plans to continue its equivalent of blocking middle seats through at least October.
The airline, the only major carrier that does not assign seats, said it will limit the number of seats for sale on each flight in the name of social distancing. It had previously said it planned to block seats through Sept. 30.
"Customer feedback has been very positive,'' the airline said in its quarterly earnings report Thursday.
Southwest Airlines planes are loaded at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport on Feb. 5, 2019. Ted S. Warren, AP
Delta CEO Ed Bastian last week said the airline also planned to block middle seats beyond Sept. 30 but did not disclose a date.
Families and other people traveling together are not prohibited from using middle seats under the airlines' policies.
American, United, JetBlue and Spirit are among the carriers that are not limiting seating capacity on flights, though plenty of flights are not going out full this summer as a spike in coronavirus cases has dampened an uptick in travel demand airlines saw in May and June after near zero demand earlier this year.
Southwest's took in just $1 billion in revenue between April and June, compared with $5.9 billion in the same quarter in 2019.
Southwest CEO Gary Kelly said in a statement Thursday that revenue and bookings have "stalled in July.''
"We expect air travel demand to remain depressed until a vaccine or therapeutics are available to combat the infection and spread of COVID-19,'' he said.
Southwest announced late Wednesday it will no longer allow passengers over age 2 without face masks to fly beginning July 27.
"If a customer is unable to wear a face covering or mask for any reason, Southwest regrets that we will be unable to transport the individual,'' the airline said in a statement. "In those cases, we hope the customer will allow us to welcome them onboard in the future, if public health guidance, or other safety-related circumstances, regarding face coverings changes.''
United and American Airlines also recently issued new guidance on their face mask policies this week.
United says passengers need to keep masks on throughout the airport, effective Friday. The company announced Wednesday ahead of its quarterly earnings call that customers are expected to don masks at United customer service counters and kiosks and United Club locations, plus at gates and baggage claim areas.