Can you buy two seats on a plane to practice social distancing?
Signing up for credit cards through partner links earns us a commission. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. Here’s our full advertising policy: How we make money.
As the coronavirus pandemic continues to take the world by storm, the travel industry has been among the industries hit the hardest. Many of us are nervous about flying, but sometimes air travel is unavoidable — especially with the holiday season right around the corner.
Airlines have been taking precautions to make travelers feel safer while on board, including some airlines blocking the middle seat to enforce social distancing. If you’re returning to the sky but still wary about travel, here’s a rundown of airlines’ policies regarding extra seats and how you can go about buying an extra seat.
|Airline||Middle seat already blocked?||Can you purchase an extra seat?|
|Alaska Airlines||Yes, through Jan. 6, 2021||Yes|
|American Airlines||No||Only for special circumstances|
|Delta Airlines||Yes, through Jan. 6, 2021||Yes, excluding basic economy|
|Frontier Airlines||Yes, but a limited number||No|
|Hawaiian Airlines||Yes||Yes, excluding basic economy|
|Southwest Airlines||Yes, through Nov. 30, 2020||Only for special circumstances|
Alaska Airlines is taking its coronavirus protocols seriously and has made several accommodations for travelers to feel safer while flying. In addition to blocking the middle seat of every row (through Jan. 6, 2021), you can also purchase what Alaska calls a “comfort seat” for yourself.
A comfort seat (or an extra seat adjacent to your own) can be purchased for any reason. If you’re interested in purchasing an extra seat, you cannot do so online but must call reservations to purchase. Alaska recommends that you book your comfort seat at the same time as your first seat to ensure you get the same fare. And for the comfort seat, they waive the standard ticketing fee!
American Airlines will allow you to purchase an extra seat, but not necessarily for coronavirus concerns. American has not updated their policies on extra seating since the pandemic hit (and they’re also still selling middle seats). Still, extra seats are available to purchase if a traveler’s body extends more than one inch beyond the outermost edge of the armrest, or for those traveling with musical instruments or works of art.
Extra seats on American must be booked over the phone by calling reservations, and you’ll be able to get the same fare if you book both at the same time. Second seats must be booked for your entire itinerary — not just one segment — and are not eligible to earn miles.
Delta makes it easy to practice social distancing and buy two seats for yourself on the plane. Not only has the airline committed to blocking middle seats through Jan. 2021, but they also offer all travelers the option to purchase an extra seat for personal comfort. Travelers must call Delta reservations to make the purchase.
Insider tip: Delta’s basic economy fare doesn’t come with advance seating assignments, so extra seats are not available for that particular fare type.
Due to the coronavirus, Frontier will be blocking a limited number of middle seats on their flights. And those of which are blocked can be easily seen on the seating map when booking a ticket. So while you can’t technically purchase a second seat on Frontier, you can try to strategically select a seat next to an empty middle one when booking your ticket.
Hawaiian Airlines is another airline committed to making travel safer during the pandemic. Not only are they blocking off all middle seats indefinitely, but they also allow all travelers to purchase an extra seat for any reason.
Extra seats must be booked over the phone by calling their Web Support Center, and each seat will be charged at the lowest possible fare. Extra seats are available in coach, extra comfort or preferred seats.
JetBlue allows all travelers to buy an extra seat on the plane, and you can even do so online! Since the airline is selling their flights up to 85% capacity, booking an extra seat is a worthwhile option for those who want the extra distance from other travelers.
To purchase an extra seat, be sure to include the number of empty seats you’d like to purchase in your initial flight search on the JetBlue website. Select your desired flight from the search results, and remember that all seats, including the extra ones, must be booked in the same fare class.
As you continue to checkout, enter your information for the traveler details in one seat, and for the other, you’ll see an option to select “this is an empty seat” instead of filling out information. Click that, then purchase and select your seats as normal from the chart and you’re all set!
Southwest’s coronavirus policies are less than ideal for those looking for extra space on a flight. They are leaving the middle seats open, but only until the end of Nov. 2020. Which means they’ll be sold for most of the holiday season.
Like American Airlines, the only way you can book an extra seat on Southwest is if you’re a passenger of size or for a related reason. In these cases, the extra seat can be purchased online.
While Spirit Airlines is selling middle seats and flying at full capacity, any passenger can purchase an extra seat. Spirit allows you to book your extra seat online. All you have to do is use your name for both tickets and select the desired seating arrangement when during booking.
You can buy an extra seat on all United flights, which might be a good idea since the airline is selling middle seats right now. The second seat for extra personal space can only be booked over the phone, but you can both earn and redeem miles for it — something that most other airlines don’t allow.
United is also the only airline that explicitly states that you must be an “active participant in preserving your extra seat” and ask a flight attendant for help doing so if required.
While the middle seat may be deemed the safest seat on the plane, that’s definitely not the case during a pandemic. If you’re feeling anxious or stressed about your next flight and are looking to ease your worries by booking an extra seat, most airlines will allow it.
Regardless, be sure to stay safe, wear a mask and work to practice social distancing during your next trip!
Featured image by AwaylGl/iStock.
The Platinum Card® from American ExpressAPPLY NOW
The Platinum Card® from American Express
Earn 100,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $6,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership. Apply and select your preferred metal Card design: classic Platinum Card®, Platinum x Kehinde Wiley, or Platinum x Julie Mehretu.
Earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points for flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year and earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points on prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel.
$200 Hotel Credit: Get $200 back in statement credits each year on prepaid Fine Hotels + Resorts® or The Hotel Collection bookings with American Express Travel when you pay with your Platinum Card®.
$240 Digital Entertainment Credit: Get up to $20 in statement credits each month when you pay for eligible purchases with the Platinum Card® at your choice of one or more of the following providers: Peacock, Audible, SiriusXM, and The New York Times. Enrollment required.
$155 Walmart+ Credit: Cover the cost of a $12.95 monthly Walmart+ membership with a statement credit after you pay for Walmart+ each month with your Platinum Card. Cost includes $12.95 plus applicable local sales tax.
American Express has expanded The Centurion® Network to include 40+ Centurion Lounge and Studio locations worldwide. There are even more places your Platinum Card® can get you complimentary entry and exclusive perks.
$200 Airline Fee Credit: Get up to $200 in statement credits per calendar year in baggage fees and more at one select qualifying airline.
$200 Uber Cash: Enjoy Uber VIP status and up to $200 in Uber savings on rides or eats orders in the US annually. Uber Cash and Uber VIP status is available to Basic Card Member only.
$300 Equinox Credit: Get up to $25 back each month on eligible Equinox memberships when you pay with your Platinum Card®. Enrollment required.
$179 CLEAR® Credit: Use your Card and get up to $179 back per year on your CLEAR® membership.
$695 annual fee.
See Pay Over Time APR
Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)