Southwest Airlines to start filling middle seats in December

As air travel companies suffer gripping losses because of the coronavirus pandemic, Southwest Airlines plans to start filling middle seats on its planes in December.

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The Dallas-based carrier stopped selling middle seats through Nov. 30 as part of its social distancing and cleanliness measures earlier this year.

“This practice of effectively keeping middle seats open bridged us from the early days of the pandemic, when we had little knowledge about the behavior of the virus, to now,” Southwest said in a statement. “Today, aligned with science-based findings from trusted medical and aviation organizations, we will resume selling all available seats for travel beginning Dec. 1, 2020.”

The carrier lost $1.2 billion in three months earlier this year because of the coronavirus pandemic, CNBC reported. The company had posted $5.6 billion in revenue a year ago. It’s revenue this year is $1.79 billion.

“We are encouraged by modest improvements in leisure passenger traffic trends since the slowdown in demand experienced in July,” CEO Gary Kelly said in a statement. “However, until we have widely available vaccines and achieve herd immunity, we expect passenger traffic and booking trends to remain fragile.”

Southwest is not the only airline no longer blocking middle seats.

Allegiant, American, Frontier, Spirit, Sun Country and United are no longer keeping middle seats open, The Washington Post reported.

However, some airlines continue not to book middle seats.

Delta still plans to keep middle seats closed though Jan. 6, the carrier said in August. The carrier also limits the number of travelers aboard the aircraft, The Post reported.

JetBlue said it is blocking seats through the holiday season. Alaska Air is keeping its middle seats closed until Nov. 30, the airline said. Hawaiian Airlines is also not booking middle seats through Dec. 15, it said.