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Delta to stop blocking middle seats, CEO speaks on Georgia voting bill

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NEW YORK: Delta Air Lines said on Wednesday it would stop blocking middle seats from May 1, a move that will allow it to start selling more tickets on each flight at a time when demand for travel then increases as more and more Americans are receiving COVID-19 vaccines.

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Atlanta-based Delta is now the only U.S. airline that still limits seating capacity on all of its aircraft cabins to give passengers more space during the pandemic, although studies have shown the risk of transmission of COVID-19 in flight is low if everyone is wearing a mask.

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The move comes as Delta has faced boycott calls over its stance on new voting restrictions adopted last week in the state of Georgia, where it is one of the largest employers.

Delta chief executive Ed Bastian had praised aspects of the Republican-backed law, but took a stronger stance against it on Wednesday.

“I must clarify that the final invoice is unacceptable and does not match Delta’s values,” Bastian said in a note to employees.

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Delta’s decision to lift the middle seat block was accompanied by a series of other announcements, including the resumption of on-board snack and beverage service from April 14.

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The airline is also extending the validity of tickets expiring in 2021 and those purchased this year until the end of 2022, she said.

Delta shares were down 1.4 percent in morning trading, broadly in line with losses on the Dow Jones US Airlines Index.

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