JetBlue To Phase Out Seat Blocks By Early 2021

JetBlue Airways Corp. is planning to phase out seat blocks by early 2021, citing scientific studies that validates the safety of the aircraft cabin from the spread of coronavirus.

In a blog post, JetBlue President and COO Joanna Geraghty said the low cost airline will make all seats available for sale starting January 8.

Airlines across the country have blocked some seats in between to maintain social distancing amid the worsening coronavirus pandemic, aiming to reassure passengers to travel more.

However, amid increase in travel demand as well as improved ways to clean cabins, many carriers are removing the plan now despite increased coronavirus cases.

In its statement, JetBlue said the potential for transmission on the aircraft is extremely low. According to the company, the cabin air system and hospital-grade HEPA filters make the aircraft safer than most other indoor environments. In addition, the airline’s face coverings policy, which was the first among U.S. airlines, provides an additional layer of safety.

Now, a number of recent studies, including Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, the U.S. Department of Defense, IATA, and Airbus, support the airline’s understanding.

These studies confirm that the layers of protection make the aircraft as safe or substantially safer than other more common settings, like grocery shopping or indoor dining. Further, the advanced hospital-grade HEPA air filtration systems actually compensate for the reduced distance between Customers.

JetBlue also noted that the Department of Defense found the air in its cabins to be as safe or safer than the air in anyone’s home or in a hospital operating room.

Geraghty said, “Our phased approach has offered a thoughtful path forward while giving us the time needed to understand the science and stay true to our No. 1 priority – safety.”

The company earlier announced plans to limit onboard capacity to 70% and no longer guarantee empty middle or adjacent seats for travel from October 15 through December 1.

During the busy holiday season, from December 2 through January 7, 2021, the company plans to limit onboard capacity to 85%, but specific seats will no longer be blocked. The company said it will not guarantee empty middle or adjacent seats.

Starting January 8, 2021, the airline will make all seats available for sale during the winter period when demand is typically lower and flights are often less full.

JetBlue’s decision follows a similar move by other airlines. Southwest Airlines Co. plans to sell the entire cabin after November, while Delta Air Lines Inc. and Alaska Air Group Inc. plan to bar some seats through at least Janusary 6.

JetBlue also said it will offer flexibility to customers who want to change their plans through its current Back and Forth With Confidence program with no fees for any travel dates. Customers who booked November 13 or before for travel on January 8 or later are eligible for a full refund to their original form of payment if requested by November 27.

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