Delta Air Lines expands Economy Comfort Service

Earlier today, Delta Air Lines announced that it would be expanding its popular economy comfrot service to all domestic aircraft. 550 mainline aircraft, as well as 250 2-class regional jets will be configured with the new seating. Earlier this year, Delta implemented an international Economy Comfort section on 170 aircraft.

The new economy comfort sections will be installed in the first 3-5 rows of Delta’s 767, 757, A320, A319, 737, MD-88, MD-90, and DC-9 aircraft, as well as in Delta’s two class regional jets such as the E170, E175, CRJ-700, and CRJ-900. The new seats will offer the following amenities:

  • 34+ inches of pitch: Current Delta economy class seats have between 29 and 31 inches of seat; so the new cabin will have 3-5 inches worth of extra legroom
  • Priority Boarding: Customers traveling in Economy Comfort will board early, directly after first class passengers and Delta’s elite frequent flyers.

Initially, customers who have purchased economy class seats can upgrade to Economy Comfort for a fee of $19-$99 after purchase. In 2012, the carrier plans to gradually introduce their international Economy Comfort directly into their booking engine, though it is not yet clear whether they will choose to do so for domestic flights as well.

Passengers who purchased a full-price economy class ticket will get access to Economy Comfort for free, and the following SkyTeam frequent flyer groups get some benefits as well.
  • Diamond/Platinum/Gold: Complimentary access at time of booking
  • Silver Medallion: 50% discount at the time of purchase or free access at check-in
When traveling domestically within the US, the lack of domestic seat pitch is perhaps the worst part of the experience. While I do not have extraordinarily long legs (being about 5’8″), I regularly struggle with the legroom on domestic passenger aircraft. Thus even if one does not care for the extra amenities of first class, paying for an upgrade to Economy Comfort can be well worth the price.
For Delta, who becomes the second US airline to implement a premium economy section after United Airlines, the addition of an economy comfort cabin will add incremental ancillary revenue, but more importantly will help the carrier retain its frequent flyers. Junior level frequent flyers often complain that their status lacks real perks; upgrades to first class are often limited to frequent flyers of the highest tier. But the ability to upgrade cheaply (or for free) to a premium economy cabin adds value to membership in lower frequent flyer tiers; helping Delta retain high value customers.

About Vinay Bhaskara

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