Skip to main content

Southwest Airlines Community

Middle Seats Announcement


Southwest Airlines Middle Seat Announcement.jfif


Earlier today, Southwest Airlines released our third quarter 2020 financial results. Along with our financial performance, we announced that flights departing December 1 and later will operate without an artificial cap that, through November 30, limits the number of people traveling on each flight and allows middle seats to remain open.


So why are we making this change now? Guaranteed distance onboard was introduced at a time when little was known about the behavior of the virus and to bring comfort to returning travelers. We now have a chorus of scientific studies that point to aircraft cabins as an environment where transmission of the virus is statistically improbable for two primary reasons: the uniform usage of masks; and sophisticated air systems that introduce fresh air throughout a flight with a mix of HEPA filtered air that replenishes the entire volume of cabin air every two to three minutes.

As we continue to learn more about the virus through data-driven research from reputable institutions, we are evolving The Southwest Promise to focus on initiatives that offer the highest level of protection for everyone traveling with us, including mask enforcement; cleaning; HEPA filters; and fresh air onboard.


True to our Brand, we are making this change in full transparency with flexibility for our Customers. In fact, we’re enhancing Southwest’s flexibility by offering a refund for all Customers booked prior to October 23 for travel on December 1 or later—and by empowering Customers who choose to keep their booked travel to make a change with no fare difference when we can’t guarantee middle seats will be open on their flight.


  • Refunds: We recognize that some Customers may have booked travel with the hope that our middle seat block would be extended beyond November. Therefore, we’re offering added flexibility by allowing refunds for all Customers booked prior to October 23 for travel on December 1 or later. On Friday, October 23, Customers booked on travel beginning December 1 will get an email that provides an option for a refund back to their original form of payment, regardless of the fare purchased. These Customers will have until midnight on October 31 (CST) to opt for this policy exception, and the refund must be initiated through a link provided in the October 23r email delivered to all eligible Customers.


  • Full Flight Changes: Customers who keep their booking will be notified two to three days before travel if their flight is booked to a capacity where middle seats will likely be occupied. Those Customers will be given the option to change to a flight (if another flight is available) that is less full within three days of their original flight at no additional charge.


We continue to uphold The Southwest Promise by requiring and enforcing face masks throughout the travel journey for Customers and Employees, ensuring clean air onboard, maintaining an extensive multi-layered cleaning program, and leaning toward our Customers by offering the most flexible policies that put the choice to travel in the hands of the Customer.


Rest assured, our top priority remains, and always will be, the safety of our Employees and Customers.

Active Member

Delta keeping middle seats open through 01/06/20.  Other airlines allow us to purchase an extra seat to avoid sitting with a stranger.  The only option on Southwest is to be a person of size or purchase an extra seat for an instrument.  I guess everyone needs to buy an instrument case.  Southwest needs to update this policy!!

New Arrival

Prior to my taking a trip to Maine this past summer, I carefully researched the Covid-19 policies and practices for each of the airlines flying to Portland.  Because Southwest is our #1 preferred carrier, I was so pleased to learn that SW also had the best approach to safety and social distancing.  A big factor in my flying Southwest was that y’all had committed to leaving the middle seats empty.  After other airlines began using the middle seats recently, I was so happy that Southwest had extended its commitment this fall.   However, the most recent announcement that you plan to  begin using middle seats is so disappointing.  Y’all were leading the pack. 


Southwest has built its brand on care and concern for people, and that has been the key to success over other airlines.  Please don’t step away from that now.  Hang in there and do the right thing by maintaining social distancing.  I won’t fly other airlines because they’ve gone back to using middle seats.  Reconsider this decision so that you remain the airlines that puts people first.

New Arrival

As a decades-long customer and big fan of Southwest, I'm stunned by the decision to open up middle seats just in time for the holiday crush, and just as cases are surging again all over the country. It seems totally counterintuitive to me, and out of chracter for the Southwest I've known and loved all these years. I appreciate the critical need to recoup from major losses over these last seven months, but I can't imagine that this is the way to do it.

Folks I know are JUST beginning to consider flying again, based on: updated understanding about the air filtration systems onboard airplanes; contaminated surfaces not being quite as risky as originally thought; and until now, safe passenger spacing. SW will undoubtedly lose some business due to cancellations from some of us who booked holiday travel early (to save some money) based on a different set of facts concerning our risks. And for those who've been waiting to book holiday flights out of safety concerns, I'm sure this middle seat decision is not going to tip the scales in Southwest's favor. From a business perspective, this just doesn't add up...   

New Arrival

Big mistake, especially because it appears to be driven by dollars. With the holiday season approaching, it jumps off the page that the company is exploiting the opportunity to make more money.  Time to look at other travel options.  

Rising Star

JUST FYI, research has shown that we are in one of the biggest waves of the pandemic since it started in the U.S. in the majority of the states SWA flies to.  Maybe a reconsideration of selling middle seats is in order.  Did I mention, it's the worse it's ever been?  So we fly without middle seats during the lean months, but include the middle seat when it's at it's highest???? 

Rising Star

Here is research, and advice from one of our top leading experts, Dr. Falci, (Sp) who had it right in April.  Not an exact quote, "while the numbers may drop in the fall, we will get a second wave when the weather cools down and everyone is drawn indoors with much more close interaction."  He was right, we see that happening right now.  I'm sure that somebody on your research team can easily google that announcement since he said it MANY times.  I'm not against you trying to make up for losses, and am even suggesting a compromise, a slight increase in your fares, and even a small, TEMPORARY, $5 charge for checking bags.  

New Arrival

We have been Southwest supporters for many years and getting ready to book a trip in December to Florida.  However we just learned that Southwest will NO longer blocking their middle seats in the mist of COVID cases rising which is very disappointing!  Other airlines (Delta, Jetblue, Alaska, Hawaiian) are not unblocking their middle seats until January so why doesn't Southwest just wait! It's seem like Southwest is more interested in making money than focusing on customers safety.  We won't be booking with Southwest if they don't extend their middle seat blocking policy until next year.  

New Arrival

I understand the need for a profit. But social distancing works.  If you think your passengers are wearing masks think again.  They are taking them off, pulling them below their noses, or simply pulling them under their chins after the flight attendant passes by or sits down.  I fly every other week and your already over worked crews are now going to be constantly being called to address the lack of compliance.  


I have only flown SW this year and especially during the pandemic. As suggested by another, allow us to buy the extra seat!


Now I will need to look to Delta (they matched my status and are keeping the middle seats open).  So sad for an Arline that I had so highly valued.  

New Arrival

$$ over safety .. We are headed to Delta.

New Arrival

I "heart" SWA, but this continued decision to fill the middle seat of planes at the time when Covid-19 pandemic cases is breaking my "heart".  While it is recommended that people reduce their travel plans during the holiday season, there are some necessary travel situations during the December months - students returning home from colleges across the country, as an example.   People literally have to touch one another when sitting next to each other on a plane (more or less depending on the size of the person in each seat).  People will need to turn their heads to speak to the flight attendant, reach across to receive snacks and water, and will need to get up to go to the restroom.  Masks come down when drinking water and eating snacks.  The risk is just too high right now to open the middle seat.  Getting through the holiday season and/or waiting for the vaccine to be readily available should be considered, rather than selecting Nov 30th as the transition date.  I agree with a previous comment:  raise the prices temporarily to recoup the funds lost by filling the middle seats.  Please reconsider this decsion.

New Arrival

A-list, companion pass holder and very unhappy. The Covid cases are absolutely SPIKING in the United States right now as SWA plans to remove the hold on middle seats. SWA needs to reconsider reopening the middle seat at this time. I've only flown on SWA since the pandemic began because you were holding middle seats open. Now I guess I can fly any carrier and base my decision only on price. If you cannot be loyal to us, why should we be loyal to you?

Rising Star

@NVSkier13 I agree, but I doubt that don't want to create a logistical nightmare of the flights they have already sold middle seats on, which I would assume are very plentiful now with the holidays.   Regardless, I'm staying loyal, just not until after the vaccine or an illness in the family I have to fly.

New Arrival

As a nurse and frequent flyer of Southwest I am very concerned about the decision to stop limiting seating on flights starting Dec 1st. I am asking you reconsider this decision. I have witnessed covid in action and had to cancel important flights home to my family because of this disease. When I finally made the decision to fly again I was very impressed with the way Southwest was handling things and I believe lead the industry in safety. I was singing your praises to friends and co-workers several of which choose to fly SW. 


I do follow the science and while hospital grade air filters and fresh air along with masks are very helpful, limiting the size of groups, especially indoors, along with spacing between people is also very critical. This component is missing with your change in policy. Failing to limit group size, even with masks and sanitation, has failed across the board in many business. On a personal note I have gotten sick from flying on a full flight with sick people on board. One year ago, despite getting a flu shot, I was recovering from a severe case of Influenza A that I contracted from a full flight out of Omaha. 


I love flying on SW but I will have to reconsider my plans in the future as a result of this policy change. With Covid19 surging all over our country and hospitals filling up , I am asking that you please reconsider this policy and continue to limit seating on your flights. 

New Arrival

SW. Please keep the middle seat open......  as a frequent flyer I do not want to switch to Delta. 

New Arrival

Please reconsider keeping the middle seat open. I heard such good things about Southwest. 
I have 4 trips to schedule and you will be losing my business. 
Most people won’t mind paying more if prices are increased but seats kept open. 


More families will be flying in December and people are pretty non-compliant let alone making their teens/children be compliant. 

If you do not change within the next 2 days, I definitely will not mind spending  more to fly on Delta.
Although I’d rather fly Southwest. 

New Arrival

I just booked my first flight on Delta, flying from Phoenix to Seattle next Monday.  First time I have been on an airline other than Southwest for the past 12 years at least.  I am a perennial Companion Pass flyer and have been extremely loyal to Southwest Airlines.  Now Southwest is citing studies commissioned by the airline industry to show how safe it's going to be with someone sitting six inches from you, taking their masks off to enjoy the meal they couldn't possibly have eaten before the flight.


I have made my concerns known to SW and they have just cited these same studies to me.  I don't care how often the air is filtered, if someone is sick next to me, that air is coming to me first.  Even if it is perfectly safe, I would think that SW would consider the opinions of its longtime loyal customers and understand that even if it is safe, IT DOESN'T FEEL SAFE.

Delta welcomed me through a door that has been closed for 15 years.

New Arrival

So now that it’s supposedly safe to fill the middle seats, when is full service of drinks and snacks going to resume. Surely if it’s safe for the paying customer to sit shoulder to shoulder then it’s safe for the flight attendants to serve drinks.


I fly Southwest several times a week and it’s alway a slap in the face to have an early morning flight and can’t get a cup of coffee. But, there’s always a fresh pot of coffee to smell as the flight crew pours a cup for themselves or the pilots while the paying customer gets Prison Rations.

New Arrival

SW airlines, please consider reinstating the ‘no middle seat’ policy again as the virus has exploded. My husband and I are headed to Florida Jan. 1st and although we chose a non stop flight, sitting next to someone for over 2 hours is not something we are looking forward to. Please follow the other airlines policies at this point. 

New Arrival

I fly multiple times per month and am rethinking my travel now.  

the pandemic is at the highest so the prevalence in the plane will be higher. 

you mention it is safe because I’d 2-3 minute air turnover and mask enforcement. 

however, you serve water and snacks.  Is coronavirus going to take a break because of thirst and hunger. 

absolutely not and some people take 10-15 minutes to savor their one pack of snacks so the person next to them is getting exposed for that period of time. 

that is not safe and I am disappointed in the change.


i will be switching from a air commuter with southwest to delta (I’ll saving middle seat until January) and then just drive.


if u are getting rid of middle seat, then at least get rid of snacks and water so there is 100% mask wearing.


i say this as a doctor who actively cares for covid patients.  There are a lot of us on these planes too.  This is risk to our health to increase your short term profits.  


New Arrival

I, too, am very disappointed in the behavior of Southwest. And since my funds extension is ending, I will have to forfeit over half of my fair cost without ever flying! The frustration mounts because of the BILLIONS Southwest is receiving from the government, while Main Street and citizens are held for ransom. Southwest, I am leaving you and you won't be able to woo me back because of your lack of concern for the health of your fellow citizens. Goodbye.

New Arrival

I join the ongoing chorus objecting to SWA's policy change to fill middle seats.  In November, after the policy change, I paid extra to book another carrier where I could fly first class and sit with my wife, without someone else next to us. Even though the price wasn't that bad, I realize it is a luxury most cannot afford.  Now, I need to fly again, If I had a real choice, I wouldn't fly with SWA because of the middle seat issue.  I stayed silent this entire time.  However, the email today from the SWA president,Mr. Nelson, was too much.  His wiscrack about sanitizer and his cheerfulness about how safe it is to fly is not appreciated.  Yes, the company is losing money, but it also has received many millions of our tax dollars, and will be getting more if the legislation in Congress gets approved.  As I see it, with the policy change, about 50 extra passengers are being put on planes such as the 737-700, the workhorse of the fleet.  That means dozens more for the frontline flight attendants to monitor for mask use.  Multiple that by the many trips they have to work.  Try as they might, there are lots of folks who, in their selfishness, don't follow the direction to mask up.  For some, it is obviously political. I even saw one person point to his bright red hat. ( You know what I mean.)  Others take their sweet time drinking and eating.  This is NOT a safe situation.  News alert to SWA: Since November's policy change, the covid is rampaging in the U.S., hospitals are filling up, and deaths are at 9/11 levels everyday.  If SWA wants to be patriotic, one small step would be to restore the middle seat policy for your customers and for your workers. 

New Arrival

Reverse your middle seat policy to leave them open -- or take the consequences. You will lose not only my patronage for ever more, but obviously lots of others, too. Delta just extended their open middle seat policy through March --- guess where I'm buying my flights from now on?!

How can you be so selfish -- when new variants of the virus are developing and infection rates are going through the roof.



New Arrival

Dear Mr. Kelly,


Please put back the NO middle seats policy. This is very uncomfortable for most people flying your airline. Delta has no middle seats thru March. Now with the vaccine starting to make it's way around the country it is a good thing! However most of us American's will not recieve it until maybe June at the earliest. I think the majority of us would pay a little more for our tickets if we had no one sitting 12" from each other. Raise your prices a little to cover the 50 seats, but don't jam us in like you are now. I've had to try and change my outbound flight now 3 times to find a flight not sold out. Business is actually pretty good for SW right now and some help from the Feds should more than cover no middle seats until later in the year when more people have recieved the vaccine 



New Arrival

I agree 100%!

Lining up to board 6 ft apart and then having to sit shoulder to shoulder in the plane is totally ridiculous! 

No wonder so many are finding it hard to be compliant with the guidelines! 

New Arrival

PLEASE - block the middle seats.  Rubbing elbows, shoulders, arms & legs is NOT SAFE during a pandemic!


Why is Southwest putting $$ ahead of people's safety & well-being?  


Seating next to each other is exactly what the CDC is warning against.  The blocked seating isn't 6ft apart, BUT with the added HEPA it is relatively safe. NOT safe with seating right next to a stranger where your bodies actually touch --- (EW!!!) -- even with the HEPA filtration.  


I'm making reservations for our 1st responder nurse daughter on DELTA even though it will be more expensive.  


And I may change my brand loyalty, as well, after all these years.  Instead of a heart, your brand should be a DOLLAR $ign

New Arrival

PLUS if they are service drinks/snacks - then people will take their mask off and SOME people take advantage of it.  It also puts their personnel at risk. Delta is now the only U.S. airline limiting capacity onboard, and will continue to block all middle seats through at least Mar. 30, 2021 BUT could be extended depending on the pandemic.  Is anyone at Southwest listening to it's customers?  99% of my friends and family fly Southwest but this move has done it for them.   Customers may not remember exactly what Southwest saidbut they will always remember what Southwest did and how they made you feel."  There is enough stress going on!!!

New Arrival

It seems counterintuitive that SWA focuses on social distancing at the gate - boarding in groups of 10 for example - but then just packs the passengers into their seats once onboard.  I was on Flights 1017 and 397 on January 15, 2021.  I would just as soon go back to the customary boarding process than a cobbled together, contrary approach.  Separately, if SWA can start filling up seats, why can't they bring back a full beverage service?  I was given drink coupons for my Business Select status at check in (why???), but when I asked the flight attendant what I could order with my coupon, she looked at me as if I were from Mars.  She motioned to her tray filled with water.  C'mon, Southwest.  You're using COVID to your advantage to cut corners in customer service and yet pack the seats full.

New Arrival

Dear southwest,

please please change your middle seat policy. Please consider the safety of your loyal passengers. 

New Arrival

I am extremely unhappy with Southwest Airlines‘s decision not to keep the middle seats open and the attempt to justify doing so. 
I used to fly SWA monthly to visit my father and I felt very comfortable doing so because the middle seat was open and I knew the air filtration system was good. Now I drive 450 miles each way because I’m not comfortable having somebody within my 6 foot radius regardless of your touted HEPA filters. It’s not good practice to put people within 6 feet of each other. Period, Paragraph. Don’t try to hid your motives. Do the right thing. You’ll make more money by taking care of your customers and being honest. 

New Arrival

I booked our tickets with Travel Funds from last May's planned flights that we had to cancel. 

I believed, because I had read in a recent article, that Southwest and Delta were still keeping middle seats open.  I love flying Southwest normally.


Now, I find that Southwest is no longer keeping middle seats open, and we are seeing not only a huge upsurge in cases, but two more virulent strains of Covid have just entered the country.  


Please either give us middle seats open immediately, or fully refund our Travel Funds that we accepted when the pandemic had just begun.  I will change my flight to Delta, if you do not open middle seats for us, but will need my Travel Funds to be able to afford it.

New Arrival

This is so sad. Prior to reading this article, though I was late, we first thought the middle seat is being used because of the holiday. My mom who is a senior citizen flew Southwest for the second time and it was a high disappointment to see the middle seats were being occupied. We loved Southwest but because we care for our families, their safety and protection is far more important.  Although Delta Airlines charges more, for now while there is pandemic,  we'll have to fly Delta for the sake of our family's safety.