Mass flight cancellations forced Delta Air Lines to temporarily fill up the middle seat on its planes over the weekend, a month earlier than it planned to start doing so.
The carrier was forced to allow customers to sit in the middle seat to make up for about 100 canceled flights on Easter Sunday due to staff shortages, the airline confirmed to Travel + Leisure on Monday.
“Delta teams Sunday worked through various factors, including staffing, large numbers of employee vaccinations, and pilots returning to active status,” a spokesperson told T+L. “We apologize to our customers for the inconvenience and the majority have been rebooked for the same travel day.”
Delta, which remains the only U.S. carrier to continue to block the middle seat, plans to stop doing so on May 1. The middle seats were only opened for Sunday and Monday and would then be blocked again.
Travelers have been hitting the skies in record numbers over the past few weeks, with the Transportation Security Administration recording more than 1 million passengers over 25 consecutive days. On Friday, more than 1.58 million people passed through U.S. airports, the most since the pandemic began.
Over the last few days, Delta alone has seen more than 1 million passengers.
While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has asked Americans to “limit” non-essential travel, the agency did say last week that fully vaccinated Americans could travel freely throughout the country without having to quarantine or test for COVID-19.
Delta isn’t alone in changing or eliminating pandemic-era policies. Last month, JetBlue said it would no longer require passengers to board back-to-front, months after the carrier stopped blocking middle seats itself. Southwest then followed, increasing boarding group sizes after it stopped blocking middle seats ahead of the holiday travel period as well.
Alison Fox is a contributing writer for Travel + Leisure. When she’s not in New York City, she likes to spend her time at the beach or exploring new destinations and hopes to visit every country in the world. Follow her adventures on Instagram.
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