JetBlue says will phase out seat blocks by early 2021


JetBlue Airways JBLU.O is gradually removing seat blocks set up on its flights early in the pandemic, with all available seats up for sale after the holiday travel season, the budget carrier said on Thursday.

The decision, announced in a memo to employees, follows a growing number of studies including from the Harvard School of Public Health and the U.S. Department of Defense that validate the safety of the aircraft cabin, it said.

“Studies like the recent report from Harvard researchers confirm that the layers of protection we have in place make the aircraft as safe or substantially safer than other more common settings, like grocery shopping or indoor dining,” JetBlue President Joanna Geraghty said.

The New York-based carrier will limit its onboard capacity to 85% between Dec. 2 and Jan. 7, up from the current 70% cap, allowing it to tap into extra demand over the holiday travel season while still providing extra space on planes.

Starting Jan. 8, in the low season, all seats will be available for sale, it said.

Low-cost rival Southwest Airlines LUV.N recently said it would stop blocking seats in December, putting it on par with larger rivals American Airlines AAL.O and United Airlines UAL.O which do not have any seating caps.

Delta Air Lines DAL.N has said it will continue restricting seating capacity through at least Jan. 6.