Delta Airlines, the only major airline that is still blocking middle seats on its flights, appears to be benefiting from the policy in money and reputation.
Delta recently extended the middle-seat block through March 31. Other carriers implemented similar policies earlier in the pandemic, but have since gone back to selling middle seats.
Delta believes that the policy helps the airline market itself as a premium carrier, and attracts premium customers. CEO Ed Bastian recently told financial analysts that "I think, from all the research we've done, from all the data that we see, our brand has never been stronger, and demand for our products and services has never been stronger on a relative basis. And we're planning on capitalizing on that on the back end of this."
Looking at average fare-per-mile as a marker, Delta has had only a small decline in 2020, while United and American had much steeper declines. Gary Leff, of View from the Wing, has suggested that customers respond to the idea that Delta is safer and more concerned with health and are willing to pay a premium.