Can you buy two seats on a plane to practice social distancing?

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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.

AirlineMiddle seat already blocked?Can you purchase an extra seat?
Alaska AirlinesYes, through Jan. 6, 2021Yes
American AirlinesNoOnly for special circumstances
Delta AirlinesYes, through Jan. 6, 2021Yes, excluding basic economy
Frontier Airlines Yes, but a limited numberNo
Hawaiian Airlines YesYes, excluding basic economy
JetBlue AirlinesNoYes
Southwest Airlines Yes, through Nov. 30, 2020Only for special circumstances
Spirit AirlinesNoYes
United AirlinesNoYes

Alaska Airlines

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

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 Airlines

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.

Airlines have differing policies when it comes to purchasing an extra seat for yourself. (Photo by Nattawud Groodngoen/Shutterstock)

Frontier Airlines

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

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 Airlines

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 Airlines

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.

Spirit Airlines

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. 

United Airlines

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.

Bottom line

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. 

Alexandra Maloney is a contributor to Million Mile Secrets, she covers topics on points and miles, credit cards, airlines, hotels, and general travel.

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! :)

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