JetBlue to stop blocking seats in January 2021

(Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Nothing lasts forever – not even extra leg room.

JetBlue will limit passenger capacity on flights this holiday season in the fight against COVID-19, but will ultimately stop blocking seats in January 2021.


Joanna Geraghty, president and COO of the budget airline, announced the news in a letter to employees last week. She cited research from Harvard and the Department of Defense, among others, in arguing that the risk of coronavirus exposure while flying was low, and voiced confidence in the carrier’s filtration systems.

“The cabin air system and hospital-grade HEPA filters make the aircraft safer than most other indoor environments, and our face coverings policy – the first among U.S. airlines – provides an additional layer of safety,” Geraghty said.

JetBlue had previously announced it would cap on-board capacity at 70% and no longer promise that middle or adjacent seats would be kept empty from Oct. 15 through Dec. 1.

Now, the airline is relaxing prior protocol even more, according to the latest updates to its “Safety from the Ground Up” program. During the “busy holiday season” from Dec. 2 to Jan. 7, 2021, the airline will bump its onboard capacity limit up to 85%. Following the same guidance from weeks prior, specific seats will not be blocked and empty middle or adjacent seats are not guaranteed.

From there, on Jan. 8 of next year, all seats will be available for customers to book, "during the winter period when demand is typically lower and flights are often less full,” JetBlue said.

The carrier joins competitors Delta Air Lines and Alaska Airlines in lifting seat restrictions on flights in early January 2021; competitor Southwest Airlines recently caught heat for doing so as of Dec. 1.