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.
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
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.
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?