Delta Comfort+ Is Getting Curtains

We’ve seen the concept of extra legroom economy grow considerably in the US over the past several years. Originally it was just United, when they had Economy Plus. But since then, the concept has grown to American and Delta, as they’ve added Main Cabin Extra and Comfort+, respectively.

Delta-One-London - 10

For the most part this is simply seating with extra legroom, which means it’s not like premium economy on foreign airlines, whereby you have extra seat width, services, etc. In other words, it’s not truly a separate cabin, but rather just a “special” section of economy.

Of the “big three” US carriers, the one which has done the most to differentiate their extra legroom economy seating is Delta. Delta offers unlimited complimentary alcoholic beverages and snacks in Comfort+, which makes them the only one of the “big three” carriers to offer that.

As it stands, Medallion members receive complimentary Comfort+ seating as follows:

  • Diamond Medallion and Platinum Medallion members receive complimentary Comfort+ at the time of booking
  • Gold Medallion members receive complimentary Comfort+ 72 hours before departure
  • Silver Medallion members receive complimentary Comfort+ 24 hours before departure

Delta-Comfort+-Medallion

Anyway, it seems like Delta is doing something else to add “lipstick” to their Comfort+ product. Delta is adding a curtain between Comfort+ and economy class, as a way of further differentiating the product. Apparently these retrofits are starting on the MD-80, and will eventually be rolled out to the rest of the fleet.

It’s an interesting move, as Delta is clearly trying to differentiate themselves from the competition. Presumably they didn’t add free drinks and snacks to Comfort+ out of the kindness of their hearts, and presumably they’re adding curtains because they’re hoping to get something out of further differentiating the product.

What could their long term strategy be?

  • Delta could try to raise the price of Comfort+ for those paying cash to upgrade
  • Delta could restrict Comfort+ to higher elite tiers only, and remove complimentary Comfort+ access for Silver and Gold Medallion members 24 and 72 hours out, respectively
  • Delta could get rid of free Comfort+ for Silver and Gold Medallions altogether, and only give Diamond and Platinum members complimentary Comfort+ a certain number of hours out

Bottom line

In and of itself this move isn’t all that significant. That being said, clearly Delta is trying to do more to differentiate this cabin, and instill in peoples’ minds that Comfort+ is something special. I’m curious what their long term revenue goals are for the cabin.

Comfort+ still can’t compete with the “true” premium economy offered by foreign airlines, which feature wider seats with more legroom and better amenities.

Cathay-Pacific-777-Business-Class-11
Cathay Pacific’s premium economy cabin

What do you think Delta’s long term plan is with Comfort+? 

(Tip of the hat to Wandering Aramean)

Comments

  1. Delta is trying to have 3 cabin service which it does not officially offer in any of its planes. While United and AA joke with customers saying they offer a first class in their international flights, Delta clearly only offers business class and economy with the Comfort+ being the new addition. I am not sure if they will also add a curtain in their international flights but on domestic it now has a clear 3 cabin strategy with differentiated service. At least on international flights it would be great if they bring the Comfort+ cabin up to standards of other international carriers like your example on Cathay Pacific.

  2. @Gene: Although it is not official, at least on regional planes which only offers one bathroom in the front and one in the back FA’s are being way more relaxed on the policy that front lavatories are only for first class. I fly Delta all the time on Comfort+ when not upgraded and I see people on Comfort+ using the first class lavatories all the time and FA’s are OK with that.

  3. It seems like Delta is trying to align itself closer towards Virgin Atlantic’s style of premium economy (which makes sense given the ownership/partnership), but minus the complete cabin separation.

  4. Don’t forget the most luxurious part of the Delta Y+ offering. Unlike UA and AA, DL’s widebodies actually offer the key amenity most flyers desire most in a Y+ cabin: more recline. It’s still only 15cm, but it’s a lot more than MCE offers. UA and AA just put the same Y seats a little farther apart, which is worth very little.

    DL is closer to JL or AF Y+ than to the neutered offerings of AA and UA. And it’s very affordable.

  5. All other carriers that offer premium economy have a differentiated product from economy. Delta sadly does not do this. It’s like trying to hang with the big boys, but knowing you’ll never be able to do it so hey why not throw a curtain in there and maybe people will pay extra? I’m sure they can blame ME3 for offering the “poor man’s premium economy.”

  6. I’m 6’5″ and I used to fly Delta almost exclusively when I was a PM so I would get C+ seating. Now that I’m no longer elite, I can’t bring myself to pay an extra $100 for more legroom on each leg of a transcon where the ticket costs $400. $200 extra (50%!) for a few inches of legroom just isn’t worth it to me.

  7. I should add that I have a hard trouble paying when it is coming out of pocket. If it is a work trip, especially international, I wouldn’t hesitate.

  8. There’s nothing premium about 4 across in an economy seat no matter if there’s an extra inch or two of legroom. *Shudder*

  9. I’m flying JFK-LAS next month, JetBlue going out and Delta coming back. JetBlue is $70 for an even more space seat and Delta wants $119 for comfort+. I’m taking JetBlue up on it and passing on Delta. I don’t think their comfort+ is worth that much extra on a domestic flight.

  10. This spells disaster. Comfort + is crap. I’ve flown it domestically and internationally and it’s just economy. Not much “+” about it. The service is the exact same as you get in coach and the meals are the same. But what the bean counters at DL are doing is hanging some drapes so they can charge the same premium economy prices international carriers who have REAL premium economy do…only without better service, drinks at food. It will work, because Delta loyalists and poor saps who don’t know better because they don’t fly international carriers that offer far superior products will be suckered into paying for this dumb crap.

  11. I guess using the forward toilet is Comfort+ !
    And curtains too! Will throw rugs and cushions be next?

  12. I don’t think Delta will restrict free access to E+ for Gold and even Silvers Medllions. As Silver myself, these seats are always available for upgrade 24 before the flight, even on busy transcon routes. At least at this moment Delta doesn’t sell as many E+ seats as they want. This will be the same when they were not giving free upgrades to Delta One and often half cabin was flying empty and loyal elites seating in Economy.

    For me, the ability to get upgraded for 100%, either to First or E+, is the single most valuable reason to keep Silver status with Delta.

  13. @Owen – I don’t know about American but UA does give you extra recline in Economy Plus – an extra inch on most if not all aircraft. And you may think four to five extra inches of extra legroom is “worth very little” but I’d beg to differ especially on a transcon or long-haul flight.

  14. Whew,Saw the 25 dollar fee for Rdu to ATL then a 49 dollar fee from ATL to Abq same heading back so I get a middle seat and free booze on early morning flights and what 4 inches ?? HA .Sitting in the coach section in the way back on an isle seat . Lucky me .

  15. Flying Delta weekly after flying UA for the past 7 years, I will say C+ is significantly better than E+ on UA. E+ was just more leg room, whereas for the most part, I have received much better service in C+. They tend to do at least 1 extra drink service in C+ than the rest of economy and I’ve never had a problem getting an extra cocktail in between services if I wanted. Further, I do really appreciate the snack service, especially in the morning when they have great breakfast bars and bananas (shoot, this is better than UA F most of the time!

    One area where I think the curtain will really help is for overhead space. C+ was initially marketed to have “dedicated bin space” which is never adhered to. With the curtain, I’m really hoping this will go further in protecting that space for those in C+ who don’t board first. If that happens, I’ll see that as a huge win for the simple addition!

  16. I’m going to guess that John’s right on this one… Anderson already tried a trial balloon once when the stopped providing the courtesy upgrades to F for Elites. There was a firestorm and DL ultimately backed-down… for awhile.

    I used to fly FinnAir a lot to Helsinki to see NOKIA (when there WAS a Nokia.) and loved the short route ‘Business Class’… it was a lot like where Delta seems to be going with this: free booze, a light snack and maybe a bit more legroom. But, NOT the full-meal-deal of F on a nice European carrier.

    Last year I had equal status on AA, UA and DL ( I fly between some combination of Hawaii, DC and CA weekly) and I’d have to say there’s no I’d ever pick DL in a face-off between a 100% shot at this new curtained E+ service on Delta and the 90% shot I’ve got at getting full F on AA. The math doesn’t work and I won’t, as a matter of principle, ‘buy up’ on DL to these intermediate service grades.

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