Delta Airlines announced Wednesday they are ending a year-long pandemic practice of blocking middle seats.
Beginning May 1, the airline said every seat on its flights would go on sale.
In a press release, CEO Ed Bastian said the unblocking of middle seats was based partly on the increase of travelers receiving a COVID-19 vaccine, stating that internal research showed that 64% of customers expect to receive at least one dose of the vaccine by May 1 and 75% by Memorial Day.
"With COVID-19 vaccinations accelerating, we’re hearing from more and more of our customers that they’re ready to reconnect and return to the skies," Bastian said in a statement. "Thanks to your outstanding service during an especially challenging year, our customers’ trust in Delta has only deepened, and our outlook for the spring and summer travel season continues to improve amid strong signs that consumer confidence in travel is returning."
Bastian added that 31% of Delta employees had been vaccinated as of this week.
"Don’t confuse these actions with a return to 'normal,'" Bastian said. "We’re still operating in a pandemic, and many of the changes we’ve made over the past year, such as strengthening our cleanliness protocols and eliminating change fees, will be permanent. Importantly, masks remain critical to our ability to safely welcome more people on board our planes, and we remain committed to enforcing these requirements."
The announcement comes as a series of changes, including returning more in-flight food and drinks starting April 14.