US airlines keep pushing their dates out for when they will stop blocking middle seats (to allow passengers to keep more distance during the coronavirus situation). But, Southwest took a big leap last week and pushed it all the way out until October.
Southwest Blocking Middle Seats – Until October
Southwest is the only one of the US airlines that does not allow seat assignments – instead, you get boarding positions and pick your seat when you get onboard. If you are group C, you are most likely going to end up with a middle seat.
Except until at least October, that is. This is because Southwest will be keeping middle seats open – unless you are traveling with someone and want to sit next to them – until at least September 30.
What This Means for You and Southwest
Southwest runs “sales” almost every week that make it easy to know you can always get the best price from Southwest when you book between a Tuesday and Thursday. Combine that with their awesome cancellation/change policy and it means you can book your travel whenever you want and then rebook it to save during a sale.
It is important to keep those sales in mind because, by blocking middle seats, Southwest is effectively cutting out a potential 33% in sales. I say “potential” because there will not be full flights for quite sometime so it may not actually cost them that much at all – for now.
But, one area where it could cost them a bit is the EarlyBird Check-in fee. This allows you to have the system automatically check you in at the 24 hour window so that you get an earlier boarding assignment – which means a better chance of getting the seat you want. However, without a fear of getting a middle seat, people may be far less inclined to purchase that add-on, and that has always been a good chunk of money for the airline.
So, it may be something that will draw more people to book with Southwest for August and September to guarantee an empty middle seat (since airlines like JetBlue currently are only blocking until July 31), but, maybe we will see an ever-so-slight increase on some ticket fares as well to make up for it.