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Delta to stop blocking middle seats on May 1

Delta Air Lines was the last remaining U.S. carrier blocking middle seats as part of COVID-19 precautions.

WASHINGTON — Delta Air Lines announced Wednesday it will stop blocking middle seats on its planes starting May 1, marking the last U.S. carrier to end the policy. 

Delta, along with all major U.S. airlines, introduced a middle seat block in Spring 2020 to allow passengers extra social distance while traveling during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

In a statement, Delta CEO Ed Bastian said that with nearly 65% of passengers who flew Delta in 2019 are expecting to have at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine by May 1. He said it is giving the company "the assurance to offer customers the ability to choose any seat on our aircraft, while also introducing new services, products and rewards to support the journey."  

The Atlanta-based airline also announced Wednesday that it would be gradually reintroducing onboard snacks and beverages. The airline said snacks will be available starting April 14, following by hot food options for select passengers in early June and boxed meals in early July. 

Delta also said tickets valid until the end of this year, as well as tickets purchased this year would be valid until the end of 2022. 

RELATED: Delta expands plans to block middle seats through March 2021

RELATED: JetBlue is the latest airline to back away from blocking seats

At U.S. airports, Tuesday marked the 20th straight day of more than 1 million people streaming through checkpoints. While crowds at U.S. airports are the biggest since the pandemic hit with full force last year, it's still well below 2019 levels.

While American Airlines said Monday that bookings are nearly back to pre-pandemic levels as more people get vaccinated, public health leaders have repeated their concern that travel will spread the virus as new reported infections grow.