Delta continues its middle-seat blocking program and rolls out new coronavirus-driven benefits

Photo (c) Sjoerd van der Wal - Getty Images

The airline is investing heavily in the new normal and hopes to make flying even better than before the pandemic

And then there was one. Delta Air Lines is now the only U.S. airline to block middle seats and limit capacity on all flights. On Tuesday, the company announced its intentions to keep things that way through April 30, 2021, in hopes of giving travelers a reason to feel safe as they book their spring travel.

While all airlines are anxious to get back to how they did things in the pre-pandemic world, Delta has taken a gradual approach. Over the past few months, the airline has relaunched things like its beer and wine service for first-class and Comfort+ passengers and reopened its Sky Club airport lounges.

As a bonus surprise to returning travelers, Delta has also been working on improving the flying experience during COVID-19. The airline says one of the new wrinkles passengers will see is more than 300 new in-flight entertainment options and high-speed Wi-Fi.

“We want our customers to have complete confidence when traveling with Delta, and they continue to tell us that more space provides more peace of mind,” said Bill Lentsch, Chief Customer Experience Officer. “We’ll continue to reassess seat blocking in relation to case transmission and vaccination rates, while bringing back products and services in ways that instill trust in the health and safety of everyone on board – that will always be Delta’s priority.” 

Other steps Delta is taking

On top of extending seat blocking commitments, Delta is taking other steps to cheer up customers as they return to travel. These include: 

COVID-19 testing: Delta says that it will be making it easier for passengers to understand testing requirements and get tested prior to travel, whether customers purchase an at-home test or find a nearby location for in-person testing. The company said there’ll be even more options in the coming months. 

The airline has also added new rapid testing centers at its hub airports in Minneapolis and Detroit. It already has testing facilities in place at Atlanta, Boston, New York-JFK, and Seattle. 

Destination requirements and restrictions: No matter where you fly, there are national or local rules in place for incoming travelers -- and they tend to change often. Delta has created an interactive travel map to help customers understand where Delta flies and the latest travel requirements or restrictions at their destination.  

Digital concierge: When ConsumerAffairs traveled to CES 2020, we witnessed Delta’s new concierge system. Even though the airline had no idea that there was a pandemic on the way, the nuance is a nice add-on in a stressful, pandemic-driven world. Via the Delta Air Lines app, the digital concierge anticipates customer needs, offers convenient services like a ride to the airport, and delivers thoughtful notifications to keep customers moving seamlessly on their journey.

An example of how the ride component works can be seen through Delta’s partnership with Lyft. The companies provide customers with multiple touchpoints within the Fly Delta app to give estimated arrival times powered by Lyft. The partnership also gives travelers the option of paying for rides by using miles.

Clean ambassadors: Delta has hired a dedicated team of “clean ambassadors” whose job it is to ensure a consistently safe and sanitized experience at more than 55 airports. 

Delta CareStandard: Tying everything together is Delta’s new CareStandard, which the company claims has more than 100 layers of protection to ensure a safe travel experience. Included in CareStandard is a comprehensive employee testing program, protocols for regularly sanitizing high-touch surfaces, and replacements for onboard industrial-grade HEPA filters twice as often as recommended. 

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