JetBlue to Phase Out Blocking of Seats Starting in December

The initial move was made to limit the potential spread of the coronavirus but the airline said that the measures were not needed.
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In a bit of good news for pandemic-weary travelers, JetBlue  (JBLU) - Get Report announced that it will begin phasing out the seat blocks limiting capacity that it first set up on its flights in the early days of the pandemic. 

JetBlue, which announced the move in a memo to employees Thursday that was reviewed by Reuters, cited a growing number of studies suggesting that it is safe to fly during the pandemic. 

"Studies like the recent report from Harvard researchers confirm that the layers of protection we have in place make the aircraft as safe or substantially safer than other more common settings, like grocery shopping or indoor dining," JetBlue President Joanna Geraghty said.

Between Dec. 2 and Jan. 7, JetBlue will raise its onboard capacity cap to 85% from the current 70%, allowing it to service some of the extra demand that comes with the holiday season. Starting Jan. 8, all seats will be available for sale, as demand typically slows around then. 

JetBlue shares were rising 1.8% to $13.63 in premarket trading Friday. 

Southwest  (LUV) - Get Report recently also stated that it would stop blocking seats starting in December, matching rivals American Airlines  (AAL) - Get Report and United  (UAL) - Get Report, which do not have any seating caps. 

Airline and travel stocks got a boost earlier this week on a report that Pfizer's  (PFE) - Get Report coronavirus vaccine had a 90% efficacy rate. 

Pfizer said that it saw no serious safety concerns from its vaccine candidate and that later this month it would seek emergency-use authorization for it from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The news comes as a welcome relief for travel and vacation stocks, which along with the hospitality industry have been hammered since the coronavirus forced global lockdowns.