Delta Pauses Automatic Advance Upgrades & Blocks Middle Seats

a large white airplane at an airport

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Delta has just announced a series of new measures which it hopes will help passengers to continue practice social distancing in the air as well as on the ground. These measures include pausing advance complimentary upgrades and blocking seats in most cabins across the airline’s remaining route network.

Delta’s New Social Distancing Measures

Delta is introducing the following measures for the period 13 April – 31 May 2020:

Middle Seats Will Be Blocked

All middle seats in the Main Cabin, Delta Comfort+ and Delta Premium Select will be blocked automatically and will not be available for selection via the Delta website or the Delta app.

Families wishing to sit together (and who would like the middle seat unblocked to allow them to do so) will have to contact Delta’s reservations department before traveling or they’ll have to discuss their request with an agent at the gate.

Fewer Passengers On Each Flight

Delta says that it is “reducing the number of customers on each flight” but it hasn’t gone on to say how this is being done.

Presumably, the blocking of middle seats will reduce each aircraft’s capacity significantly but with fewer and fewer people taking to the skies anyway, I’d expect any passenger number reduction to be mostly organic.

Advance Upgrades Will Be Paused

Medallion members who are entitled to a complimentary upgrade courtesy of their status (or a credit card) will no longer see those upgrades processed in advance. all complimentary upgrades will now be processed at the gate (in the order they would have been processed under normal circumstances) to allow gate agents “to determine how to best seat customers while considering social distancing and aircraft weight-and-balance restrictions“.

Quick Thoughts

I like these measures. They seem fair and appropriate to the situation around us but it’s worth noting that, for once, Delta is significantly behind the other 2 big US airlines.

United announced social distancing measures in the middle of March and American Airlines followed suit a week later so I’m not sure why it has taken Delta (usually a leader) this long to join in. Still, better late than never.

Two Requests

There should be very little reason for most people not to make their seating requests ahead of the date of departure so please don’t leave this until the last minute. Gate agents have enough on their plates right now and will have even more to do when they have to process the complimentary upgrades, so having groups turn up at the gate demanding to be seated together when they could have easily arranged this in the preceding days will be annoying. It will also be incredibly selfish and thoughtless.

Don’t be that group.

Also, when it comes to the complimentary upgrades being issued at the gate can passengers please leave their egos at home? I’ve been hearing a lot of stories of over-entitled elites behaving appallingly at gates around the world and that’s simply unacceptable.

It’s unacceptable at the best of times let alone when the world is in the midst of a major crisis so please just assume that the gate agent is doing their best and don’t play the “do you know how much I spend with this airline” card if your upgrade doesn’t clear – upgrades that don’t clear are really not a big deal right now and you just look like a jackass when you cause a scene.

Bottom Line

It’s good to see airlines taking more and more measures to protect customers while they’re in the air as every little thing that we do to hinder the progress of the virus is a step in the right direction.

You can do your bit too – if you know someone who’s traveling and who doesn’t really need to travel please try to talk them out of it. The fewer people that interact with one another the better it is and we don’t need people taking unnecessary trips when social distancing is the way to go.


  1. I’d like airlines to require people to wear face masks on the plane.

    Also, it wouldn’t hurt for them to board the plane back to front to minimize contact with passengers.

    I mean, who really wants to board 1st class right away, and then have 50 people pass you in the aisle. I don’t think either of these items would be unreasonable for the airline or passengers.

    • I fully agree. I used to get weird looks from people every time I took out my anti-bacterial wipes and cleaned around my seat on every flight I took – I bet I won’t get so many weird looks going forward 🙂

  2. Mike – face masks are a farce. They give people a false sense of security since the vast majority of them don’t stop you from getting viruses and people don’t even wear them correctly (how many people do you see w a mask covering their mouth and not their nose).

    I REFUSE to wear one and won’t do so unless mandated by law. BTW better this spreads and we build immunity. There will be collateral damage but we don’t shut down the country every year because 10,000-60,000 will due from the flu so when the peak is over and better treatment options are defined (all within next 4-6 weeks) we need to open up the economy and just deal with illnesses as they occur.

    BTW this is also the view of a number of leading economists and also health professionals. We can’t afford to keep the country closed or people so paranoid they are walking around in masks and gloves since we are worried about a few thousand more deaths.

    • 1) Face masks aren’t just there to stop someone getting an illness, they’re there to help stop the spread as well. You don’t appear to understand this.

      2)The idea that we should allow this to spread to allow herd immunity is a truly moronic suggestion as the number of lives lost would be catastrophic. The whole herd immunity idea was briefly tried in the UK and the government there then rapidly changed course when the reality of what would happen set it.

      3) The fact that you seem to think that an economist’s opinion on how best to deal with Covid-19 is an opinion worth listening to demonstrates exactly why your opinion should be ignored.

      4) Your belief that this is relatable to the flu shows a staggering level of ignorance that you should be embarrassed to demonstrate to the world. Actually, it’s more than ignorant. It’s dangerous.

      5) You seem worryingly happy to trade in thousands of people’s lives because the situation around us doesn’t seem to suit you or agree with your own personal narrative – I’d love to see how you’d react if you were as seriously affected as a lot have have been by this virus.

      What we are dealing with here is a cataclysmic worldwide event and the fact that you don’t appear to be able to grasp this is both worrying and a demonstration of how poorly educated people can be – I don’t think I’ve read a more heartless and idiotic comment on a blog…ever.

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