Delta Removing Seats To Allow Crews To Provide Better Service

When we hear about airlines changing seating configurations on their planes, it’s almost always to add additional seats. This comes in the form of installing slimmer seats, reducing galley space, etc.

Delta is countering the trend and removing seats

But Delta is countering that trend with their announcement from earlier in the week. Delta will be removing seats from 179 jets to make additional space in the galleys for the flight attendants to perform their duties.

Via Bloomberg, here’s how Delta explains the changes:

“This is an investment to give our flight attendants the room that they asked for, and in turn so they can provide better customer service,” he said.

These modifications will be happening on their A320s and MD-90s, as well as the 45 A321s they have on order:

Three rear seats will be taken out of 69 Airbus Group SE A320 jets currently being flown and from 45 A321s on order, Delta said. The carrier also will nix two apiece in its fleet of 65 McDonnell Douglas MD-90s, which don’t have rear galleys, to provide more storage space, Thomas said.

It’s my understanding that the following seats will be removed:

  • Airbus A320: seats 33A, 33B, and 33C will be removed
  • MD-90s: seats 39A and 39B will be removed
  • A321s: seats 38D, 38E, and 38F will be removed

Delta-Economy

What’s the catch?

It’s sort of tough to justify to shareholders that you’re removing seats from planes “just because.” I do think it’s a bit of a stretch to suggest that there’s a direct correlation between customer service and the amount of galley space. In other words, a flight attendant doesn’t come to work on a given day and say “well, there’s less galley space on this plane, so I’ll just put in 50% effort today.”

But bigger picture I see the logic here. Delta’s flight attendants aren’t unionized, and Delta wants to do what they can to keep it that way, and this is basically one way to invest in their flight attendants.

While I think that’s great, I also think there’s another side to this, though. A large percentage of flight attendants “commute” to work, whereby they live in one city but are based out of another, so have to “position” themselves for those trips. While they’ll love having more space and fewer seats when they’re working, fewer seats also means their chances of commuting to work go down, as they fly on a space available basis.

For revenue passengers, inventory management is a complex art, and ultimately Delta will still be trying to “optimize” revenue. On a macro-level, fewer seats means higher fares, though eliminating 2-3 seats on a subfleet likely won’t have a direct impact there.

Bottom line

I commend Delta for this move, as it seems they have good intentions and genuinely want to provide a better work environment for their crews. Ultimately I don’t think this will materially change the experience for passengers on these planes, though it’s a nice “bone” they’re throwing their flight attendants. They have a better relationships with their crews than the other two legacy carriers, and they want to keep it that way.

What do you make of Delta’s move to remove seats from nearly 200 planes?

Comments

  1. DL Plat here. (And almost Diamond for next year!!!! Yay me.)

    I do think it may have customer benefits. The crews are generally happy, but I have heard a bit of sniping about how hard it is to do the service properly on some of these planes. Especially maneuvering carts around, etc. Happier crew, happier service, better experience. To a certain extent.

    A good friend of mine is a DL FA based in NYC, and he bids against some of these aircraft types to avoid this issue. So it may also help DL a bit with assigning crews.

    Would love to see the 739ERs added to this list, because that plane is tight everywhere – seats, galleys, lavs.

    Yeah, I don’t know what it means for fares, but I don’t get the sense we’ll be paying massively more because of this.

  2. Call me cynical but as a long time DL customer I think this will prove out to be a revenue neutral move. They will find some other way to increase fares or fees to make up for it. The kicker is they will then announce the changes and tell us that we asked for it.

  3. There is no doubt in my mind that happier workers means a happier workplace and better service and lower turnover. Anyone who doesn’t think that’s true just needs to look at their own job, as well as the benefits many companies give today. This doubly goes for startups and tech companies.

  4. LOL. I seriously doubt ‘giving more room’ is going to help the deplorable service received on domestic airlines. Unless it involves $$ to their pocketbooks, they won’t care. They need to invest in how to treat customers like human beings.

  5. I don’t know how they chose this set of planes but it seems like there must be some other conveniences involved (like the A321s not even having delivered yet), because the 739 is the real plane where there has been a lot of valid FA grumbling about lack of work space, and no changes announced there. Despite this minor takeback, most of Delta’s fleet is still much more crowded than it was a few years back.

  6. Sounds like a good way to increase capacity for inflight food sales. More room means more inventory and thus greater selection. Though DL often has ‘revenue sharing’ for airport concessions in locations such as here at MSP, there is a distinct incentive to capture that spending on the plane.

    It the words of DJ Quick, “if it don’t make dollars, it don’t make sense.”

  7. +1 for the comments re the 739

    DL Diamond. Plenty of travel this year, and several transcons recently on the 739. That is super tight. Esp the forward galley.

    Always try to get on a 757 over the 739’s.

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